Holiday Flight? Don’t Get Charged with a Federal Crime

The holidays are full of travelers. Many travelers like the convenience of airplanes to get them where they’re going. As a result, flights are overbooked, airports are overcrowded with people, and bad behavior is more than likely to occur.


But responding to fellow irritating travelerers, especially through physical contact or threatening language, during the flight experience can lead to serious federal charges against you.


These charges aren’t anything to simply brush off, either – particularly if you want to be able to fly the friendly skies again. And these charges are brought more often than you may think.


Here’s what you need to know about crime on airplanes and the types of behaviors that can lead to federal charges.


Causing a Disturbance in an Airplane


Sometimes passengers are disruptive. But when does that disruption translate into a criminal matter?


Under federal law, when passengers on an airplane cause a disturbance, they are either interfering with a crew member or interfering with their ability to do their duties on board.


Crimes are often associated with causing a disturbance.


Assaulting a Crewmember


The point of federal law on planes is to protect the people onboard – including the crew. That’s why you cannot interfere with the flight crew, which includes pilots and flight attendants, during a flight.


Assault is when you attempt to injure the crew or injure, intimidate them, or conspire to do either. If you use an object considered dangerous to assault a crewmember, then the penalties are even more severe.


Interfering with a Crewmember


Sometimes things occur that may not rise to the level of assault but interference with the flight crew. Anything that impacts the ability of the flight crew to do their jobs is an issue.


The Federal Aviation Administration can impose fines on anyone who interferes with a crewmember on a flight. Some actions that can be considered interference include:


  • Physically blocking a flight attendant as they come out of the galley or try to walk down the aisle
  • Disobeying the requests of the flight attendant to return to the seat, turn off a device, or sit down
  • Threatening a crew member with violence or leveling threats against anyone else on the plane
  • Shining a laser beam into the cockpit from the ground


Houston Federal Criminal Defense Attorney

Penalties For Crimes on an Airplane


The penalties that are faced depend on the underlying charge. For assault, you can face up to 20 years behind bars and pay up to $250,000 in fines. Possessing a dangerous weapon can result in a punishment of life in prison.


In cases involving interference, you will be fined up to $25,000. The Federal Aviation Administration will bring a civil penalty case. You are free to present your side of the matter in federal court to an Administrative Law Judge.


Keep Your Cool


When frustrating situations occur, it’s vital when you’re flying this holiday season to keep your cool. You must follow the direction of crewmembers on board, or you can violate federal law.


To help keep you and everyone else safe on an airplane you should always follow directions. Never make threats, and try to keep from raising your voice. If you are having issues, ask to speak with a different flight attendant to try to help resolve the issue. Under any circumstances, avoid touching a crew member.