FBI-FAA Joint Statement on Unruly Passengers

Thursday, November 4, 2021

As part of an ongoing partnership, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are working closely together to ensure unruly airline passengers face criminal prosecution when warranted. The agencies have established an information-sharing protocol for the FAA to refer unruly passenger cases to the FBI for criminal case review.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and FBI are committed to prioritizing the review of the cases referred by the FAA and initiating criminal prosecution where appropriate. This increased coordination is part of a broader effort to prevent dangerous unruly passenger incidents.

“Let this serve both as a warning and a deterrent: If you disrupt a flight, you risk not just fines from the FAA but federal criminal prosecution as well,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson.

“The FBI will continue working in tandem with our partners to ensure the safety of all passengers and investigate crimes within our jurisdiction aboard commercial flights,” said FBI Acting Assistant Director Jay Greenberg of the Criminal Investigative Division.

FAA and DOJ representatives began meeting in August to develop an efficient method for referring the most serious unruly-passenger cases for potential criminal prosecution. That resulted in a process where the FAA regularly sends cases to the FBI, which forwards those that merit potential prosecution to field offices for further investigation.

As of Nov. 4, the FAA has initiated enforcement action in 227 cases. Where the evidence supports criminal review, the FAA refers the cases to the FBI.

While the rate of unruly passenger incidents on commercial flights has dropped sharply since the FAA launched its zero-tolerance campaign, the rate remains too high. The agency pursues legal enforcement action against any passenger who assaults, threatens, intimidates, or interferes with airline crewmembers, and can propose civil penalties up to $37,000 per violation. Detailed current data on these incidents is available on our unruly passenger website.