Regardless of the cause, flight crews who are simply doing their jobs so the rest of us can get to our destinations safely should not have to endure verbal and physical abuse.
That’s why a federal “no-fly” list for unruly passengers is long overdue. The data from the past year says it all: It’s past time for the DOJ to ban reckless passengers from commercial flights to send the message that such conduct will not be tolerated.
But the reality is that it is clearly not enough: While the rate of unruly passenger incidents has dropped about 50% since last year’s highs, as of February 1 there were still 323 reports of unruly passengers. According to the FAA, 205 of those reports were related to face mask compliance.
Imagine if the length of time a person could be banned from flying was commensurate to the wrong, just like how our criminal justice system tailors the punishment to fit the crime. Not being able to take a commercial flight into, outside of or within the United States for a significant period of time would likely be reason enough to rethink threatening a flight attendant, especially given how many people need to fly as a component of their work.
There should be, though, a clear and accessible procedure that would allow a person to appeal their inclusion on the list to the DOJ and ultimately the courts.
If we want to make air travel safe for all of us, from passengers to the flight crew, it’s time to step up the punishment for unruly passengers. Perhaps in the future, when stuck on a bus for nine hours instead of sitting on a plane for two, they can reflect on why their actions were so wrong.
A “no-fly” list sends a powerful message to everyone that you either behave civilly on the plane, or be gone. And that’s not just a win for the flight crews, it’s a win for society overall.