Lawmakers propose putting violent passengers on a no-fly list for life
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Two U.S. lawmakers are proposing a new bill that would place violent flight passengers on a lifetime commercial no-fly list managed by the Transportation Security Administration.
The "Protection from Abusive Passengers Act," proposed by U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island) and U.S. Representative Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), aims to "improve air travel safety, increase traveler protections, reduce the number of in-flight violent incidents, and hold unruly passengers accountable."
In addition to being placed on a no-fly list, convicted violent passengers would also permanently be banned from participating in the TSA PreCheck or Customs' Global Entry programs.
Unruly violent passengers would be first given a notice from the TSA and an opportunity to appeal before being placed on the permanent no-fly list, said Swalwell told KTVU on Tuesday
This would be a civil penalty; passengers could also be subject to any local criminal prosecutions.
Cher Taylor, a spokeswoman for the Association of Flight Attendants, said she relished the idea of the bill.
"A lot of us are afraid to come to work," Taylor said. "I'll be perfectly honest because we share stories."
She was involved in a racially motivated fight on a plane that started off with words, but then turned physical. It's hard, she said, as a flight attendant to catch a situation before it goes too far, but that's often very difficult.
The proposal comes in the same week that Southwest passenger faces federal charges after allegedly masturbating on a flight from Seattle to Phoenix and month after the FBI sent 80 unruly airline passenger cases to the Department of Justice for possible criminal prosecution.
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"Most of us who fly don't have to worry about this," Swalwell said in an interview. "But too many flights have at least one person who's been acting out and risking the safety of everyone on board, and is high time that we have real consequences for."
Currently, passengers are subject to $36,516 of civil penalties for misconduct on a flight, Swalwell's office told KTVU.
Passengers who assault or intimidate a crewmember could be subjected to criminal fines and imprisonment for up to 20 years.
This is not the first time a no-fly list was proposed.
In February, Delta Airlines wrote to the U.S. Department of Justice requesting that any person convicted of a disruption on board a flight should be put on a national "no fly" list.
But it didn't pass.
A group eight GOP senators issued a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland saying while they "strongly condemn any violence towards airline workers," they also feel a "strong opposition to the creation of such a list."
Sens. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., Rick Scott, R-Fla., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Mike Lee, R-Utah, James Lankford, R-Okla., Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, took issue with the request, in part because it would target those who are skeptical of mask mandates.
"Creating a federal ‘no-fly’ list for unruly passengers who are skeptical of this mandate would seemingly equate them to terrorists who seek to actively take the lives of Americans and perpetrate attacks on the homeland," the senators wrote in part.
As of Monday, there were 1,081 reports of unruly passenger incidents reported, roughly 65% of them were mask-related incidents, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Enforcement actions were taken in only 159 of those reported cases.
The rate of unruly passenger incidents per 10,000 flights has decreased significantly, from 6.9 incidents per 10,000 flights in Dec. 2021 to 3.8 incidents in March of this year, according to FAA data.
KTVU's Tom Vacar contributed to this report.