FAA is sending some unruly airline passenger cases to the FBI

The aviation administration is referring particularly egregious cases of in-flight disruption to the federal law enforcement agency.

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Sarah Lord covers TVs and home entertainment. Prior to joining CNET, Sarah served as the tech and electronic reviews fellow at Insider, where she wrote about everything from smart watches and wearables to tablets and e-readers. She began her career by writing laptop reviews as an intern and subsequent freelancer at Tom's Hardware. She is also a professional actor with many credits in theater, film and television.
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The Federal Aviation Administration is cracking down on unruly airline passenger behavior. In a tweet on Thursday, the FAA said it is referring its most extreme cases of in-flight disruptions to the FBI for potential prosecution. 

So far 37 incidents out of 227 initiated enforcement cases have been sent to the FBI, according to the Associated Press. The FAA hasn't indicated how many of the referrals have led to charges. The agency didn't immediately respond to CNET's request for comment. 

The FAA, which has civil authority, can propose fines on passengers of up to $37,000 per violation in the case of unruly passenger behavior. The FBI plans to handle criminal charges, which the FAA states is "a priority for both agencies."

There have been over 5,000 unruly airline passenger reports in 2021 so far and over 3,500 mask-related incidents, according to the FAA. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's federal mask order applies to passengers and staff "when boarding, disembarking, and for the duration of travel" at any transportation hub in the United States, according to the US Department of Transportation's website.

Earlier this week, an American Airlines passenger was reportedly charged after punching a flight attendant in the face during a flight from New York to California. He currently faces up to 20 years in prison for assault and interference with a flight crew.