Airline passengers who act out violently could earn themselves a ban from flying commercially under legislation now pending in Congress.
“Air rage” incidents spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic, sometimes sparked by resistance to masking requirements put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The FAA lifted those requirements in April 2022, but violent incidents among passengers and between passengers and airline crew members have continued at an elevated level.
Zero Tolerance for Unruly Passengers
In response, lawmakers Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) called for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to ban passengers who are fined or convicted of physical assault or intimidation and abuse from flying on commercial flights.
“The Protection from Abusive Passengers Act would require TSA to develop a no-fly list for individuals who engage in dangerous behavior on a plane or at a security checkpoint,” said Reed. “There should be zero tolerance for any violent behavior that affects flight safety and this bipartisan bill will help us get there.”
Several flight attendants took part in the March 29 announcement of the legislation, which was endorsed by the Air Line Pilots Association, flight attendants’ unions, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and Southwest Airlines, among others. “Assaults on our airline workers are completely unacceptable, and both airlines and regulators need to act to put an end to this crisis,” said John Samuelsen, president of the Transport Workers Union International.
The bill is identical to one initially introduced in Congress in April 2022 that failed to advance to a vote.
The FAA investigated 831 unruly-passenger incidents in 2022, up from 183 in 2020 but lower than the 1,099 incidents investigated in 2021 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.