(Trends Wide) — Incidents with unruly passengers are on the rise again, new figures from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) show.
FAA figures released Tuesday show more incidents on commercial flights during the past week than during any other week in the past two and a half months.
President Joe Biden said Thursday that he ordered the Justice Department to address the rise in violent incidents on airplanes, as passengers resisting mask-wearing requirements threaten airline personnel.
“We are going to deal with that,” the president said during a speech near Chicago, where he highlighted how his administration has pushed for vaccination mandates against covid-19.
The FAA says there were 128 new incidents reported by flight attendants, bringing this year’s total to 4,626. The new number is the highest weekly figure since the FAA began releasing weekly data on July 20.
About 72% of the incidents in the past week were due to the federal mandate to use face masks in federal transportation, figures show.
The FAA adopted a zero-tolerance policy for unruly, sometimes violent passengers on board flights earlier this year.
This year, the agency has proposed fines of more than $ 1 million against unruly passengers.
In August, a US $ 45,000 fine was announced against a passenger accused of throwing his luggage at another passenger and, while lying on the aisle floor, “grabbing a flight attendant by the ankles and shoving her head up her skirt.”
Another passenger refused to wear his mask, the FAA said, and “acted like his hand was a weapon and made a ‘pew, pew’ noise like he was shooting at a fellow traveler.”
They find more weapons at airports
The increase in incidents involving unruly passengers recorded by the FAA comes as airport security officers find weapons more frequently than before the pandemic, even when the number of people traveling is still low.
In late September, the head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), David Pekoske, said that his agency has found about 7,900 weapons, including firearms, so far this year. . This figure includes 4,500 weapons that he described as “live weapons”, as well as loaded weapons.
The TSA generally only discloses the number of firearms that its officials find. Last year, the TSA found 3,257 guns and 83% were loaded. That was less than the 2019 record of 4,432 firearms, but air traffic was significantly lower in 2020 due to the pandemic.
By the end of September, TSA had found about two-thirds of the volume it saw at the same point in 2019.
“These are big numbers,” Pekoske said at a conference held by the Regional Airline Association. “The rate per million passengers is much higher now than it was two years ago.”
He said agents have also seized more than 3,200 prohibited items from aircraft cabins, such as knives and star-shaped blades.
At the same time, TSA agents are grappling with enforcing the federal mandate for the use of face masks on federal transportation and agitated or violent commuters. Pekoske said 110 TSA agents have been attacked this year.
At the time, he declined to say whether the mask-wearing mandate will be allowed to expire in January or whether it will be extended again. About 3,600 violations have been reported to the TSA.