Flight Attendants Want to Put Problematic Passengers on 'No-Fly' List

Airlines have seen an increase in incidents involving unruly passengers since the pandemic started.

Suwan Banjongpian/Shutterstock

The pandemic has affected many industries, but the travel industry was perhaps hit hardest. First, it was a lack of travelers. Then it was getting travelers to follow new rules and safety regulations put in place to protect them, which has resulted in an uptick in incidents involving unruly passengers. Now, flight attendants are ready to do something about it. 

According to The New York Times, Delta Air Lines crews are urging other airlines to consider creating and sharing a "no-fly" list of customers barred from the skies due to in-flight incidents. The airline sent a memo to flight attendants earlier this week, revealing that its own list currently has more than 1,600 people on it. It's unclear, at this time, which airlines, if any, are on board with Delta's "no-fly" list. The airline has not shared more about the idea since releasing its memo. Meanwhile, other airlines have taken measures to counter in-flight incidents, like stopping alcohol service during flights.

And on Thursday, a congress held a hearing during which flight crews aired their grievances and pleaded with lawmakers to take action. President of the Association of Flight Attendants Union Sara Nelson testified that the Federal Aviation Association (FFA) reported 4,284 "unruly passenger reports" since January. For context, the FAA investigated only 789 unruly passenger incidents from 2015 to 2020.

Nelson said roughly three-quarters of all those incidents were related to mask mandates. She noted that in 61% of those incidents, passengers hurled racist, sexist, and homophobic slurs at flight crews. The FAA attempted to thwart unruly passenger incidents by introducing a "zero tolerance" policy, which brought with it hefty fines for bad behavior. Although fines reached record highs, little has changed. 

In creating and sharing "no-fly" lists across airlines, companies could ensure that unruly passengers couldn't bypass one list by simply flying with another carrier. According to the memo, the list, which would flag potential passengers and keep them off certain aircrafts, is about more than just punishing people who refuse to follow the rules. It's about safety.

"We've also asked other airlines to share their 'no-fly' list to further protect airline employees across the industry—something we know is top of mind for you as well," Kristen Manion Taylor, Delta's senior vice president of in-flight services, wrote. "A list of banned customers doesn't work as well if that customer can fly with another airline."

Delta's memo comes amid a period of contention in the air travel industry. Flight crews are fed up with passengers lashing out at them over mask mandates and other safety regulations put in place amid the global pandemic. CNBC reported that the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA previously called for a database containing names of passengers banned from flying. The organization, which represents more than 50,000 cabin crew members employed at several airlines, suggested the list be made accessible by all airlines.

This concept is not entirely new, but Delta Air Lines is approaching it differently. The government has its own "no-fly" list, created for very different reasons. That list, which is well-known to most people, was created in response to actions identified as terrorism. Airlines are not responsible for adding or removing people from that list because the FBI maintains it. Additionally, being on the government "no-fly" list means more than just not being able to get on a plane. It limits where you can travel to and carries other consequences as well.

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Caitlyn Hitt is Daria IRL. Don't take our word for it—find her on Twitter @nyltiaccc.