FAA sends 80 unruly airline passenger cases to FBI for possible criminal prosecution

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said Wednesday that it sent 80 unruly airline passenger cases to the FBI for possible criminal prosecution. 

The FAA told FOX Business that these were the "most egregious" incidents out of the nearly 6,500 cases reported since January 2021. 

Airlines have already reported 499 cases of unruly passenger incidents since the beginning of 2022, according to FAA data. The majority of cases, 324, are related to passengers not abiding by the federal mask mandate. 

RELATED: American Airlines LA-to-DC flight lands in Kansas City because of unruly passenger: report

The FAA started investigations into 123 of those reported cases and initiated enforcement action in 59 cases, which means the FAA is in the process of levying fines for those passengers.  

In 2021, there were over 5,900 cases reported to the FAA. 

Although the FAA has the ability to propose hefty fines against unruly passengers – as much as $37,000 per violation – it can't prosecute criminal cases. 

Last August, officials from the FAA and Justice Department began meeting to "develop an efficient method for referring the most serious unruly-passenger cases for potential criminal prosecution," the agencies previously said in a joint statement. 

By November, the FAA had already sent the FBI 37 cases and said that it will continue to regularly forward cases over to the agency. 

RELATED: Southwest Airlines may serve alcohol on board in spring

The FAA has been proposing fines against passengers who assault, threaten, intimidate or interfere with airline crew members since January 2021 when it adopted its zero-tolerance policy. It reported that the rate of incidents has dropped by half since record-highs reported in early 2021 "but there remains more work to do." 

Delta CEO Ed Bastian even asked the Justice Department to create a national "no-fly" list for people convicted of a disruption onboard a flight, saying that there should be "zero tolerance" for any behavior that affects flight safety. 

"This action will help prevent future incidents and serve as a strong symbol of the consequences of not complying with crew member instructions on commercial aircraft," Bastian wrote in the letter furnished to The Associated Press by Delta Air Lines.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Read more of this story on FOX Business