WASHINGTON, D.C. – A coalition of labor unions representing tens of thousands of airport passenger service agents, flight attendants, and other airline employees today urged Attorney General Merrick Garland to pursue federal criminal penalties against individuals who assault or interfere with passenger service agents. The coalition – which includes the Communications Workers of America (CWA), International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), and Transport Workers Union of America (TWU), Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA), and the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) – also urged Garland to prioritize prosecutions of unruly passengers and strengthen a coordinated approach with state and local law enforcement as workers face unprecedented levels of verbal and physical abuse from unruly passengers.
Last year, during the holiday travel season, the Department of Justice took steps to address increasing assaults aboard aircraft, prioritizing prosecution of those who “endanger the safety of passengers, flight crews and flight attendants.” Yet the Department has not meaningfully pursued penalties against or prosecutions of individuals who assault or interfere with passenger service agents.
The unions wrote: “Unfortunately, this unruly behavior is also rampant within the airport, prior to enplanement, and we have seen cases of assault at airport gates, ticket and reservation areas, and other on-the-ground airport locations. With great frequency, passenger service agents have been the targets of violence and unruly behavior in their workplace as they carry out their responsibilities.”
Passenger service agents perform critical security duties, such as checking passengers in and reviewing identification, as well as boarding passengers, thereby acting as the last line of defense before an individual is permitted on-board an aircraft. These frontline workers have been the targets of violence and unruly passenger behavior in their workplace, as detailed in a February 10th letter to administration officials.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), as of February 15th, there have been 499 unruly passenger reports and 324 mask-related incidents reported, with only 123 investigations initiated and 59 FAA enforcement action cases initiated. The FAA reported a total of 5,981 passenger incidents in 2021, which is a historic increase from previous years.
While the FAA has the civil authority to impose fines on unruly passengers, it does not have criminal prosecution authority. Therefore, it is incumbent on the Department of Justice to exercise its full authority against unruly individuals who put passenger service agents in harm’s way.
Read the letter here.
The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) is a coalition of 36 labor unions representing millions of transportation workers across America.
The Communications Workers of America represents working people in telecommunications, customer service, media, airlines, health care, public service and education, manufacturing, tech, and other fields, including more than 20,000 passenger service agents who work for American Airlines and its wholly owned subsidiaries, Envoy Air and Piedmont Airlines.
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers is the largest airline union in North America and one of the largest and most diverse industrial trade unions in North America, representing approximately 600,000 active and retired members in the aerospace, defense, airlines, railroad, transit, healthcare, automotive, and other industries.
Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.
The Transport Workers Union of America represents more than 155,000 members across the airline, railroad, transit, universities, utilities and service sectors.
The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA represents nearly 50,000 flight attendants at 17 airlines.