The US Federal Aviation Administration administrator Steve Dickson yesterday signed a stricter legal enforcement policy against disruptive and violent passenger behaviour.

The order – which allows the agency to pursue legal action against any passenger who assaults, threatens and intimidates airline crew members – was put into force as a result of recent violent behaviour displayed by passengers, ranging from refusal to wear masks to the recent Capitol Hill attack.

“Flying is the safest mode of transportation and I signed this order to keep it that way,” he commented.

Before recent events, the FAA would address disruptive passenger in different ways, including warnings and counselling to civil penalties. The new policy – which will remain in effect until the end of March – will allow the FAA to resort directly to legal action, with passengers facing penalties up to $35,000 and prison time.

In the last ten years, the FAA has initiated more than 1,300 enforcement actions against unruly passengers but recently the situation has worsened. As reported by the Washington Post, US airlines and airports saw an increase in threatening and disruptive behaviour from passenger in the days before and after the Capitol Hill insurrection.

Incidents involved Trump supporters chanting “traitor” while harassing senators Mitt Romney and Lindsey O. Graham, as well as refusing to wear masks.

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Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), an American Airlines union, reported an incident where racial slurs were hurled against a black flight attendant. “Yesterday, racial epithets were hurled towards a black flight attendant as they rode to the DCA airport in the hotel shuttle,” wrote in a press release APFA president Julie Hendrick. “On another flight, a group of passengers removed their masks after take-off and harassed the flight attendants throughout the flight, up to and including the deplaning process.

“These are just two examples of too many we have seen on flights this week. This behaviour is dangerous and threatening.”