WASHINGTON — Two senior House Democrats overseeing aviation issues urged the head of the Federal Aviation Administration on Monday to work with U.S. airlines to prevent civil unrest from jeopardizing safety, according to a letter seen by Reuters.
Representative Peter DeFazio, who chairs the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Representative Rick Larsen who oversees an aviation subcommittee urged FAA Administrator Steve Dickson “to limit the chance that the nation’s commercial airline system could be used as a means of mass transportation to Washington, D.C., for further violence in connection with the inauguration” of President-elect Joe Biden on Jan. 20.
The FAA did not immediately comment.
“We respectfully urge the FAA and the aviation community to think creatively on what authorities or additional measures will reduce the possibility of unruly and disruptive behavior on aircraft over the next nine days as well as that of insurrectionists exploiting the freedom to fly to carry out nefarious schemes against democracy,” the letter said.
On Saturday, Dickson vowed to take “strong enforcement action” against unruly passengers following reports of supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump disrupting flights returning from Washington.
Dickson said the “FAA will pursue strong enforcement action against anyone who endangers the safety of a flight, with penalties ranging from monetary fines to jail time.”
Last week, the flight attendants union said Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol should not be allowed to depart Washington on commercial flights after exhibiting “mob mentality behavior” on flights into the region.
Alaska Airlines said on Friday it banned 14 passengers from future travel after “unacceptable” behavior on a flight from Washington to Seattle.
U.S airlines and law enforcement agencies bolstered security at Washington-area airports last week after reports of disruptive behavior by some Trump supporters on flights into the region, which raised concern about their departure.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham was harassed on Friday by supporters of Trump and called a “traitor” at Washington’s Reagan National Airport before departing on a flight, according to videos posted on social media. U.S. Capitol Police are temporarily posting officers at DC-area airports to ensure lawmaker safety, a U.S. official said on Saturday.
There have been numerous videos posted of unruly behavior on Washington flights, including one American Airlines flight to Phoenix in which the pilot threatened to divert “to the middle of Kansas and dump people off.”
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