Delta Airlines, Washington Post Call For The Federal Government To Create A No-Fly List For Unruly Passengers

from the being-shitty-about-mask-requirements-is-the-new-terrorism dept

We already have enough problems with the no-fly lists we already have. No due process. No effective way to challenge placement on the list. No real oversight of the means and methods used to “nominate” Americans and visiting foreigners into flightlessness.

So why in the name of all that is holy are airlines and, yes, even the Washington Post editorial staff calling for a new no-fly list — one that targets unruly passengers who have been kicked off planes for, among other things, becoming combative when asked to respect mask mandates?

This is the headline of the Washington Post op-ed:

Delta’s CEO called for a national no-fly list of unruly passengers. He’s right.

Is he, though? This is what Delta has asked the DOJ to do:

In a letter to the Justice Department Attorney General Merrick Garland dated Thursday, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said there should be “zero tolerance” for any behavior that affects flight safety. Bastian noted that while such incidents of bad behavior represent a small fraction of overall flights on Delta, the rate of incidents on the airline has increased nearly 100% since 2019.

“This action will help prevent future incidents and serve as a strong symbol of the consequences of not complying with crew member instructions on commercial aircraft,” Bastian wrote in the letter furnished to The Associated Press by Delta Air Lines.

And here’s how the Washington Post editorial board summarizes its agreement:

Passengers, some of them drunk, who violently protest mask mandates while flights are underway pose a risk to everyone on board. They are a particular hazard for airline personnel, a workforce already strained and understaffed because of the pandemic. Airlines are right to refuse service to those passengers and to warn ticket-holders of the consequences of rebellious behavior.

You may notice something about that paragraph of agreement: airlines already have the right to refuse service to misbehaving customers, just like any other private company. In fact, airlines already maintain their own no-fly lists that prevent evicted passengers from flying on their planes.

Airlines also have the power to recommend de-planed passengers to the FAA to pursue civil penalties. That the FAA has been less than 100% effective in doing this is no reason to call for yet another federally-controlled no-fly list that will, inevitably, result in the same injustices and be subject to the same minimal oversight. I mean, if airlines are looking for new ways to be sued, a no-fly list that is, in essence, controlled by them is a damn good way to accomplish this.

These complaints are backed by the unions that represent a number of airline employees. But those echoed complaints aren’t necessarily backed by evidence that a drastic move like this is necessary.

They suggested the TSA keep a no-fly list of individuals convicted of crimes aboard airplanes or be fined by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), flight attendant and transport worker union leaders said.

“If there is not a no-fly list … people are going to continue to assault plane crews and gate agents,” said Transport Workers Union of America president John Samuelsen.

Maybe this is supposed to be a nod towards the assumed deterrence a no-fly list would create, but it reads more like the union is claiming there are a lot of repeat offenders — a claim that doesn’t appear to have any basis in fact. There may have been a spike in incidents, mainly due to mask requirements, but that’s not the same thing as booted passengers seeking travel alternatives and committing the same violent acts once on board a competitor’s airplane.

Other unions aren’t necessarily on board with the federal list the head of Delta wants, though. Some suggest nothing more than more sharing of information on ejected passengers (something that raises some interesting privacy questions), while other reps just want to see the FAA be a little more enthusiastic about pursuing civil fees.

Some blend of these ideas will probably be enough to deter future violent acts by passengers who would apparently rather face criminal and civil penalties than wear a mask for a few hours. While those with boots on the ground (with the ground being the air in this case) may feel something more immediate and drastic is needed to protect employees and other passengers, the Washington Post’s advocacy of another federal watchlist that will answer to almost no one seems like an extension of its antipathy towards anti-maskers, rather than a thoughtful take on a spike in passenger violence that is almost certainly as anomalous as the pandemic that inadvertently triggered it.

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Comments on “Delta Airlines, Washington Post Call For The Federal Government To Create A No-Fly List For Unruly Passengers”

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This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
me says:

Another facet of this

The last thing we need is giving the TSA in all their Incompetent glory more power….. If I get agitated from turbulence on a flight because I don’t fly well, is that enough to permanently de plane me? Where would it end? The TSA just recent helped put an innocent LA woman in jail for 13 days, sorry the trust is not there.

Ceyarrecks (profile) says:


…”any behavior that affects flight safety”
“any” behavior?
liiiiiike: poor maintenance of the plane itself?
like: extraneous and internal electronic activities in & around air ports?
like: the training and trustworthiness of the pilots?
like the quality of the fuel(s) used?
all the above, and I am assure so much more “affect flight safety.” But of course, everyone knows all of the C-level people are only whining like 3yo children and about anything that may affect themselves, with ZERO regard for anyone else…. like, their paying customers, foolishly expecting to be flown to their destinations.

PaulT (profile) says:


“any” behavior?”

Yes, any behaviour by the passengers. If they’re involved in any of the things you mentioned that would obviously be concerning in ways other than your pathetic attempt to deflect from the stated point being discussed.

“their paying customers, foolishly expecting to be flown to their destinations.”

Yes, which is why drunk assholes, idiots who are too delicate to wear a mask during their flight, people who try picking fistfights with staff or other passengers, etc. need to be ejected from the flight and hopefully get dealt with before they try boarding the flight, so that this remains possible for passengers who aren’t raging morons.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

No need to outsource

As the article notes if the airlines really wanted to crack down on people like that they already can, simply make a note of ‘problem’ passengers and refuse to let them buy tickets or fly on a plane if they get a ticket some other way and the problem is solved. Trying to dump the problem on the government like this just reeks of ‘Let’s shift the blame to someone else so they can take the heat for doing what we asked them to do.’

PaulT (profile) says:


“simply make a note of ‘problem’ passengers and refuse to let them buy tickets or fly on a plane if they get a ticket some other way and the problem is solved”

…for that specific airline. There’s then nothing to stop them causing havoc on another flight. Sharing information between airlines voluntarily would be ideal, but given the number of options available in some areas, including airlines based outside the US where sharing passenger details is frowned upon unless there’s a legal need to do so, I’d say that you probably can’t just hope everyone does what’s needed in this case.

sumgai (profile) says:

The intent here is not to “federalize” the list, but to gain protection under color of law that short-circuits any law suits over an airline sharing names of former customers that they won’t let fly with them again. Such a list, or sharing of lists, is probably already being done, I have no idea, but the thing is, a person on the list can contest it in court, which is something a person on a government watch list cannot do. At least, not without a lot of time and money.

Administration of the list should rightly be at the “front desk” where people attempt to buy a ticket, but if there’s a government law on the books, then it enters the province of some government agency. Guess who’s on deck for that little operation…..

Additionally, where this will have to reach to have any effect at all is on-line purchasing of tickets. It’s still a viable court case if one can buy a ticket on-line, then finds out at the check-in counter that he/she is on a “no-fly list for assholes”. That becomes a contract dispute, albeit one that won’t be settled until long after the flight has taken off for Timbuktu.

Comboman says:


a spike in passenger violence that is almost certainly as anomalous as the pandemic that inadvertently triggered it.

Air rage was certainly exasperated by the pandemic but it had been steadily increasing long before 2020. Seats and aisles that get narrower year-by-year and easy access to alcohol is a recipe for antisocial behavior.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Consequences for being a jerk, imagine that

Cars exist and if you tend to be a belligerent drunk and know that harassing the flight staff might get you barred from flying on their planes maybe don’t drink while or before flying.

I have just as much sympathy for someone who might be told ‘you harassed our employees/other customers last time you flew with us so you’re not getting on our planes’ as I would for someone who was told the same for just about any other business/service.

Bruce C. says:

Re: Re:

“Cars exist” ignores the portion of international or even intranational travel that takes place over the ocean. Hawaiians, Puerto Ricans and others have no other recourse but air travel. Partly thanks to the Jones Act, but also because ocean liner travel is like Amtrak for the oceans even when it does exist.

sumgai (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

TOG is correct, an airline serving the public is still a private business. Just like a local bar that bounces you for being an ass, and then tells other bar owners along the same street, you suffer the consequences of your actions for being a jerk on an airplane.

But as I noted earlier, there is recourse in civil court. You may have had a really bad day, and you’re flying back home to bury your dad…. so you failed to exercise civility when asked to mask up. The court can take that into consideration, and may possibly persuade the airline that you are remorseful, enough so that they should remove you from the no-fly list. This is nothing more than a contract dispute, at least at this time.

If the government gets into it, and somehow makes it a criminal action (civil vs. criminal in copyright, anyone?), then the shit will really hit the fan, and it may come down to no, one cannot sue to be removed from the list. Again at least not without a significant investment of time and money.

And FWIW, no has any inherent right to fly anywhere. A citizen or visitor to the USA has something of a right to travel freely (without hindrance), but that does not extend to any particular mode of transportation. When it comes down to it, you’ll recall that when the Constitution was written, all that was available for personal movement was horse and carriage, or good ol’ Ralph-and-Louie. Sailing ships (wind powered) were how you got to other places like islands. Funny enough, those methods are still available, should one so desire to use them…. or need to.

I’m sure that some of you will see a direct correlation between this scenario and that of social media, yes?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Eh, I’ll acknowledge that ‘no plane travel’ could make such visits more difficult(if you can’t go to them pay for them to come to you) if not impossible(if that’s not an option) but that still leaves a company deciding that they’d rather not deal with a particular customer based upon how that customer acted the last time, and as far as protecting themselves and their other passengers from a belligerent customer I struggle to see an issue with a company making that choice.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:


“because you got into a swearing match after having too much alcohol on a plane.”


Delta are asshats, to be sure, but in this case I have partial sympathy; they’re a private company, their planes are private transportation, and as the wisdom of the ancients will readily clarify, taking your pants off or biting your fellow passengers have always meant the vehicle owner refrains from leaving you a seat henceforth.

The real trouble is, I think, that a private entity wants government to handle a no-fly list. If Delta wants to ban troublemakers then such a list should be held and maintained by Delta. No matter that the government no-fly list may be so much more convenient.

I think Delta’s just trying to save on EFT’s when it comes to handling assholes. And that’s the real asshole part of this move.

Anonymous Coward says:

the assumed deterrence a no-fly list would create

Odd how the threat of jail has not deterred car theft, nor the death penalty (in particular states) deterred murder. How would a poorly advertised no-fly list (distinct from the “terrorist” no-fly list somehow) deter the flight-rage of discretion-impaired/drunk passengers?

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
TFG says:


It won’t – especially since the specific people targeted by this one, at least at first, won’t care. They’re the “my rights trump everybody else’s” crowd. The prospect of being put on a no-fly list wouldn’t even occur to them.

The opportunity for abuse and mission creep is tremendous – so combined with the complete lack of effectiveness? Nah, it’s a bad idea. No go, Airlines, do the dirty work yourselves. I feel for you, dealing with these assholes, but just remember that the government was in thrall to one such asshole up until 2021.

Don’t give them this power.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Kicked off

But given they are happy to call the police on people who disagreed with being kicked off so the airline could deadhead their own staff I dont think this is something airlines should have in their power.

It’s their plane, why shouldn’t they be allowed to use it how they want? If they refund or replace that ticket, the customer has been made whole, legally speaking.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:


“How would a poorly advertised no-fly list (distinct from the “terrorist” no-fly list somehow) deter the flight-rage of discretion-impaired/drunk passengers?”

It won’t. It’ll just make sure that those particular discretion-impaired passengers aren’t going to fly any more.

On the one hand if you insist on shitting on the seat of someone else’s car when you’ve been offered a ride you really have no call demanding you should be allowed a seat in that car henceforth.

On the other hand though, that sort of ban should be privately held, not by government. The local bouncer doesn’t rely on a government blacklist when they decide who gets to enter the bar…and neither should the local air steward.

Flakbait (profile) says:

Ex-post facto

Creating a no-fly list, whether shared by the airlines or handled by the Feds, is treating the symptom after the disease has started. Kind of like antibiotics…you have to get sick first for them to work. Better idea: primary prevention. Many of these incidents seem to be, at least from my readings, linked to the consumption of excessive amounts of alcohol, ergo, limit its sale, both in the terminal and on the plane.

Christenson says:

Re: Statistics time!

I watched someone more or less flip out on a flight in 2020 or 2021. In the end, the person calmed down enough and we all got to our destination, but they were not hostile. I’ve also seen one video of a guy pinned down yelling stop the plane, stop the plane….

I would be very interested in knowing if there is any sort of a recidivism rate for these things; I have my doubts unless it’s a Karen.

I’d also be happier if we knew the rates over the last 25 years or so; the security theater is, well, dehumanizing.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

No one wants to be the bad guy.
All the crazies already hate the government, so lets make them the forward face of this so we can just carry on.

I still think humans missed the chance to end the pandemic by taking a lesson from history, internment camps work & its not like you ever have to compensate them… hell you won’t even offer an apology for 75 years and well antivaxxers, with luck, won’t make it 75 more years.

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