Justice Department Confirms Agents Covered by Federal Assault Law

The U.S. Department of Justice has just confirmed that passenger service agents are, in fact, covered by legislation adopted in 2002 that set significant penalties and jail time for anyone who "interferes with airport and airline personnel who have security duties."

CWA has been fighting hard, pressing both the DOJ and the Department of Transportation to recognize that these safeguards – with effective penalties – were intended to cover passenger service agents. While the original intent of the statute supported by CWA had been to cover airport employees with security duties, the law had been re-interpreted as covering only TSA agents and law enforcement personnel.

This has been a big issue for passenger service agents, who too often face assault, both verbal and physical, from passengers. "We're getting bags thrown at us. Passengers are getting upset because we're trying to charge for the bags, and they throw things at us and curse at us," said Ingrid Peredes, an Envoy agent in Miami.

"This is a victory for the employees of the airlines and our customers and their families, that no one will have to be exposed to violence in our nation's airports," said Tom Robertson, an Envoy agent in Joplin, Mo.

"I feel so proud that telling our stories in D.C. and in meetings here in Texas moved this. Now we need to make sure that management backs us up and enforces this," said Chris Kress, an American agent at Dallas-Fort Worth.

The airlines offer no training on dealing with violent passengers. Sometimes the airport police get involved, but in most cases, passengers face no consequences and are simply escorted to their flight by airline supervisors. Now, airline agents know they have federal protections against this assault and abuse and will be working on implementation and enforcement.