Unruly Travelers Face Criminal Charges, Penalties, TSA Warns


Federal officials are warning travelers to behave or face potential criminal penalties for unruly behavior.

The Transportation Security Administration stressed its “zero tolerance” policy in a release Thursday and said it may seek the maximum allowable criminal charges and civil penalties against violent passengers.

“Passengers do not arrive at an airport or board a plane with the intent of becoming unruly or violent,” Darby LaJoye, who is temporarily leading the agency, said in a statement. “However, what is an exciting return to travel for some may be a more difficult experience for others, which can lead to unexpected, and unacceptable, behaviors.”

The warning comes before the July 4 holiday weekend and amid a broader surge, with U.S. travel statistics moving toward pre-pandemic levels. On June 23, for example, TSA recorded 1.8 million travelers through checkpoints, compared to less than half-a-million on the same day last year and 2.6 million in 2019.

The agency said it plans to restart flight crew self-defense training next month to deter assaults--a program that had been paused due to Covid-19 restrictions.

The Federal Aviation Administration, too, has faced rising levels of “unruly behavior,” with some 3,100 reported incidents this year, the agency said in a recent release. It’s proposed a total of $563,800 in fines against at least 60 people. Some confrontations stemmed from the federal face mask mandate in place for public transportation, the FAA said.

Several airline trade groups and unions earlier this week urged the Justice Department to pursue criminal cases against disruptive travelers.

TSA said unruly passengers have caused flight delays and disrupted other transportation across the country. Recent incidents in Colorado and Kentucky resulted in referrals to law enforcement.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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