WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressmen Rob Menendez (D-NJ-08), Andrew Garbarino (R-NY-02), and John Garamendi (D-CA-08) introduced the Airline Employee Assault Prevention Act. This bipartisan legislation would protect passengers and land-side airline employees such as ticket agents and airport workers by fixing a jurisdictional issue that prevents the FAA from implementing plans that would provide assault protections.
“Assault and harassment should not be an occupational hazard for any worker,” said Congressman Rob Menendez. “That is especially true for employees at our airports from the flight crews who are responsible for ensuring millions of passengers safely reach their destinations every day to the ticket agents who provide invaluable customer services. I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation that will make sure these essential workers are protected and, in doing so, will create a safer and more enjoyable flying experience for everyone.”
“Unruly or violent airport passengers pose a clear public safety threat, something that simply cannot be permitted,” said Congressman Andrew Garbarino. “Just as there are penalties for assaulting airline staff on an airplane, this bill would expand assault prevention measures to include all passenger service agents. I thank Congressman Menendez for his leadership on this issue and I am proud to join him as co-lead of this legislation.”
“In 2018, Congress enacted my requirement that every commercial airline have a federally approved employee assault prevention plan to safeguard pilots and flight attendants from abusive passengers who delay flights for everyone and even cause violent altercations,” said Congressman John Garamendi, a senior member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. “Now Congress and the TSA must extend those same protections to airline employees inside the airport like ticket and gate agents, who suffered abuse at the hands of unruly or intoxicated passengers during the COVID-19 pandemic. I am thrilled to work with Congressman Menendez to finish the job by better protecting all airline workers and innocent bystanders from physical violence and abuse.”
“Every worker deserves a safe workplace free from harassment and assault. Flight attendants, operations agents, and others in our air system are threatened with violence far too often,” said Transportation Workers United (TWU) International President John Samuelsen. “The Airline Employee Assault Prevention Act is essential to keeping TWU members safe, both in the air and on the ground. The TWU appreciates Representative Menendez’s leadership in Congress on this issue as we fight to keep workers from harm everywhere.”
“Unfortunately, airline workers have faced unprecedented levels of verbal and physical abuse from unruly passengers in recent years,” said President of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO Greg Regan. “The Airline Employee Assault Prevention Act is necessary to ensure that airlines develop and submit plans to better protect their workers, including passenger service agents. We commend Rep. Menendez for introducing this bill to increase aviation safety and ensure that passengers who assault workers will be meaningfully penalized.”
“The Teamsters endorse The Airline Employee Assault Prevention Act in the strongest possible terms” said International Brotherhood of Teamsters General President Sean M. O’Brien. “No one should be assaulted and abused for simply doing their job. We commend this effort to stand up to protect our airline passenger service agents.”
In 2023 alone, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has recorded more than 1,200 reports of unruly passengers. While the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FAA have taken steps to address incidents aboard aircraft to protect passengers, flight crews, and flight attendants, violence that occurs within the airport prior to boarding has been on the rise as well. According to a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) study conducted last year, 61% of airline customer service agents have reported at least one passenger assault within the past year, while 96% reported verbal harassment.
The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 took an important step to address this issue by requiring airlines to develop and submit an employee assault prevention and response plan. However, while most major commercial airlines have completed this step, the FAA has expressed concern that it lacks the legal authority to enforce the plans for certain airline workers such as ticket agents.
The Airline Employee Assault Prevention Act would address this enforcement gap by requiring airlines to submit plans to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). This bill would also codify the DOJ legal opinion, “2017 Kadzik Interpretation Letter,” that asserts passenger service agents are covered by the penalties for criminal interference with airport security screening personnel.
To read the bill text, please click here.