Delta announced an effort to unify US carriers to make their own no-fly list for misbehaving passengers. However, execution will make this good intention a very bad idea.
Delta’s No-Fly List Proposal
Delta Air Lines has answered the government’s request for a plan to end the unruly air rage incidents plaguing flights across the United States. The company has banned 1,600 people since the beginning of the pandemic and has proposed to share its list of banned customers with other carriers.
The concern is that if an unruly passenger is banned from Delta Air Lines, for example, they can simply fly with another airline next time which doesn’t end or adequately punish the behavior. If a customer can fly with American next time, why should they stop their tantrums and disruptions?
If Delta were to share their no-fly list with other carriers, it could leave both the carrier and its airline passengers in a compromised position. Another carrier wouldn’t necessarily have to honor the list, though there’s an obvious advantage to in so doing in the current climate.
Something Has To Change
Delta has put forward a plan, and frankly, kudos to them for coming up with something. Something has to change, and it has to change now. The kind of behavior we have seen taking place on airlines in the last two years is in some cases deplorable. It’s not all down to mask issues, though that seems to be a tinderbox for some flyers who apparently didn’t know what they signed up for when they bought their ticket.
We have seen fights breaking out in terminals and on planes. Flight attendants are often on the receiving end of whatever wrath a flyer chooses to bestow and that’s not part of their job description. I, along with every other blogger I know, desperately want to see a return to civility and none of us can pinpoint when, where, and why the degradation of decorum began. These incidents aren’t limited to discount carriers, though Spirit gets an unfair amount of attention for incidents on its aircraft. It has happened on every carrier in the US, with or without mask-related incidents.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has instituted steep fines for bad behavior that can reach into the tens of thousands. There is also the government’s no-fly list which is typically used for the most egregious offenses, including suspected terrorists.
Why Delta’s No-Fly List Will Fail
I can’t reiterate it enough, at least Delta is suggesting something. However, my fear is really down to who decides what constitutes a problematic customer, what the process is for disputing such a claim, and who maintains, distributes, and updates that list.
In the US, all airlines are common carriers. They are limited in which customers they can exclude from their business. Air travel is a mode of transportation operated for the collective good by for-profit companies (though no one told American Airlines that.) Where the real problem lies is that banning a customer from a mode of transportation could have far-reaching consequences not only for the traveler but others as well.
If a customer was banned from all carriers, are they relegated to Amtrak or Greyhound to get to a dying relative? What about the impact on their job status and the companies they work for? I don’t believe that companies would be able to both avoid lawsuits and government scrutiny (even though the government asked for a plan) if they unilaterally decide what mode of transportation a US person is allowed.
Who Decides the Validity of An Event
This may be the biggest issue with the process. Matthew and I recently reflected on the rare incidents we have had in our thousands of commercial flights. We have both had an issue with a crew member whereby they returned false information to the rest of the crew and threatened or succeeded in removing us from flights for incidents that did not involve a violation of airline policy let alone civil nor criminal law.
In Matthew’s case, had this policy been allowed, he might not have ever flown again. In my recent issue, where I was accused of having a lowered mask (it was dropping while I was answering an FA’s question and replaced each time), the witnesses around me would have been more than happy to attest that it was a case of a rogue employee and not a passenger disruption. But what’s the process of disputing such a claim from an airline employee? And wouldn’t an airline be more apt to believe their employee than a passenger, regardless of whether that employee accurately assessed the situation?
The current no-fly list is not good. It’s so bad, in fact, that the government has to come up with a “redress number” for cases of people that should not be on the no-fly list, but due to governmental bureaucracy, cannot be removed just given a number that acknowledges they can indeed fly.
What happens when all carriers using different technology of various stages of advancement try to cohesively establish and follow a list? The government can’t effectively do this, how will competitors?
There would have to be a manner by which a passenger could defend themselves and dispute the claims. Some third-party would have to be involved to assess the validity of the initial claim, its severity, and whether it warrants an all-out domestic travel restriction.
There exists a legal, better alternative. The FAA has introduced new, steep fines and criminal penalties for unruly passengers. The issue is that the government doesn’t often issue those stiff penalties. Law enforcement awaiting the aircraft upon landing may scare the passenger into compliance, but rarely are the penalties levied.
Levy the penalties -just follow through. That’s all the government, airlines, and law enforcement need to do. They have increased the penalty to add teeth to their threats, but then they don’t bite and punish the bad actors. So bite.
Just 34 incidents of nearly 4,000 reported have received fines – do more. While Delta is putting forward an option, they are not the police and cannot force the FAA to follow through on its own rules. For the government to suggest it’s up to airlines – who have forwarded these cases to the authorities who have largely done nothing – to come up with an actionable plan when the FAA’s own plan simply isn’t executed by the same agencies, is laughable.
I once more commend Delta on stepping up with an idea. Unfortunately, in practice, it will not work the way it is intended. It assumes that all incidents are valid, that all are of a certain severity, and that the punishment should be substantial and potentially irreversible. It’s too harsh and does not allow for the possibility that not all suggested of being unruly truly are.
What do you think? Is Delta’s plan a good one? We all agree that change needs to happen but is this the way? What about enforcing the laws on the books?