Is it time for a national no-fly list for unruly passengers?
There are places where violence can be particularly destructive. Inside a fuselage jammed with people flying at 600 mph at 30,000 feet is certainly one of them.
The Federal Aviation Administration has made a dent in the nation’s unruly passenger problem. Its new zero tolerance policy resulted in a big decline in the number of reported incidents last year.
But too many people are still attacking crew members or fellow passengers on planes. As our skies fill up with spring breakers this month, it’s a good time to ask: Should Congress create a national “no fly list” of disruptive and dangerous passengers?
In 2021, the FAA received nearly 6,000 reports of unruly behavior aboard U.S. airlines. The majority of those cases involved travelers riled up over mask mandates.
The number of incidents plummeted to just over 2,400 in 2022 after the FAA dispensed with issuing warnings to out-of-control passengers and stepped up enforcement instead. Mask mandates were also removed in April.
Still, the number of serious incidents is far greater than in pre-pandemic years. Last year the FAA opened 831 investigations. Before the pandemic, the number of investigations ran about 150 annually. It seems passengers are just angrier these days, even without being told they have to wear masks.
Earlier this month, one man put another in a head lock then punched him on a Southwest Airlines flight after the victim reportedly bumped into the assailant’s wife. Days before that, a man on a United Airlines flight tried to open an emergency exit door, then tried to stab a flight attendant in the neck.
Delta Air Lines chief executive Ed Bastian last year called on the federal government to create a national no-fly list of passengers convicted of crimes related to onboard disruptions.
Airlines maintain their own banned passengers lists but say they can’t share them with each other due to privacy concerns.
So unruly passengers can bounce from one airline to another.
Eight Republican senators, including Sen. Ted Cruz, quickly opposed Bastian’s plea, saying it was unfair to mask skeptics and would “seemingly equate them to terrorists.” But now that masks aren’t the source of the disturbances any more, what argument remains?
Several dozen members of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA this month went to Capitol Hill and urged lawmakers to support creation of a no-fly list as part of the FAA Reauthorization Act.
We think it deserves strong consideration, provided it includes a clear appeal process and a path to be fairly removed from the list.
With flight delays increasing, cabin legroom decreasing and runway incidents looming, the last thing any weary traveler or crew member needs these days is to be caught up in the commotion created by a violent person. A no-fly list for those dangerous passengers could be just what we all need.