As much as I detest unruly passengers who are disorderly on airplanes, the answer is not a new system that imposes blanket bans on commercial flying to passengers deemed disruptive.
A New National No Fly List? No Thank You…
A memo from Kristin Manion Taylor, Delta’s Senior Vice President of In-Flight Service makes the case for a new national no fly list for passengers who misbehave onboard:
At Delta, we now have more than 1,600 people on our “no fly” list, and we’ve submitted more than 600 banned names to the FAA in 2021 as part of their Special Emphasis Enforcement Program.
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. A list of banned customers doesn’t work as well if that customer can fly with another airline.
The move comes after the Federal Aviation Administration gave airlines one week to come up a with a solution to the lingering problem of passenger misbehavior onboard.
Too Much Room For Error
Chew on this: if the David Dao incident had not been captured on video, he likely would have been banned from flying on United Airlines and branded a combative, disruptive passenger (as United initially labelled him). But that narrative did not stick and instead he was broadly heralded as yeoman hero and settled for millions of dollars after being dragged off an oversold flight for refusing to give up his seat.
What a difference a perspective makes…
Actions have consequences and I don’t want bad passengers walking from one airline to the next…it’s something I experienced on a recent United flight and will share about next week.
But even with a common desire to keep drunk, defiant, or deplorable passengers off of airplanes (especially in light of what happened on JetBlue earlier this week), this is not the right approach.
As Gary Leff notes, “It’s appropriate for an individual business to choose not to do business with a customer anymore. It’s far more questionable for a business to say that no one should be permitted to do business with that customer.” Especially when each airline takes it own approach to mask enforcement.
Furthermore, we need to look no further than the federal No Fly List, spawned by the new security industrial complex after the 9/11/2001 attacks, to see the inherent problem of such a list. Thousands found themselves improperly on that list. Passengers on that list were not given reasons and were offered only limited avenues of redress. Some improperly placed on the list were eventually removed, but with no explanation or apology.
And now we want airlines to share names pursuant to a plan to effectively block people from stepping onto any commercial flight?
Even if full names and dates of brith were used to carefully match flyers and avoid John Doe problems, there still remains remarkable room for error, particularly in how events are construed.
What about the case of an overzealous flight attendant or gate agent? Can you not easily imagine a situation in which a flight attendant did not like a passenger and colluded with a colleague to drum up charges? A crazy flight attendant accused me of taking pictures of her…what if one of her flying partners went along with her and I got banned from all airlines?
Despite being a heavily regulated and subsidized field, it’s a stretch to argue anyone has a right to fly commercially. At the same time, the lack of alternative options effectively restricts the livelihood of those who are who are barred from stepping onto any flight.
There’s a better alternative: prosecute immediately those who disturb flights and are kicked off. You want to disturb a flight? Fine, you’re going to get fined and potential jail time for doing so. Hold special night courts to expedite it. If every instance of misbehavior is actually followed through with swift and meaningful consequences, there should be little need to share “naughty” lists because passengers will not be repeat offenders.
I don’t trust airlines to effectively and fairly share intelligence, even if the end result would be utilitarian; that is providing the greatest good for the greatest number. Instead, we should use the mechanisms we have in place and aggressively punish those who act out on board with civil or criminal penalties.
On American Airlines, you will be permanently banned if you engage in “name calling” a crew member. The term is not defined. Imagine a passenger banned from all airlines because of a misunderstanding and with little or limited option to appeal. There’s a better way: throw the book at those who act out and let the law take care of them. Surely, there is great public desire for it to do exactly that.
image: Delta Air Lines
As a response for a federal demand to address unruly passengers, surely this new mask offender banned passenger list would constitute state action (government pressuring companies to take this action) and thus we should hold it up to an appropriate level of scrutiny for due process to the extent it infringes on travel rights.
I have zero sympathy for people that have caused problems on flights over the last year. Except for the people who really didn’t do what they were accused of, or who may have even done their best to comply but a cranky two year old led them to getting the boot – they shouldn’t be banned from flying the next day (returning home from the other side of the country!) when their toddler is in a better place.
There are people genuinely violent and disruptive, and they don’t go on the mask list they go on the ‘real’ banned passenger list. The call here is to take someone who had a mask issue *only* and was not otherwise violent or abusive and have them banned from air travel, and perhaps from other forms of travel too since the mask mandate applies to ‘transportation’. Doing it based on one crewmember’s finding on one flight of one airline seems highly problematic.
These passengers behave illegally. They are a risk to passenger and crew safety. Don’t forget this behaviour is traumatic to others, which becomes a civil liability risk to airlines. Workplace safety includes not coming home from work terrified, with a stress disorder, just as it is not ok for passengers to assault crew physically or sexually.
Given that the behaviour in question is criminal, this is an issue for law enforcement.
The no fly list is an adequate remedy. Yes, there are clearly wrinkles to work out.
No business is obliged to provide service to passengers that endanger or endangered others.
Yep, this is a horrible idea. Imagine a useless FA being the judge and jury of what constitutes “bad behavior.” That seems magnitudes worse than an overzealous TSA agent. Leave the no-fly list to actual criminals and terrorists.
I’m all for it….enough is enough. This is not the wild west.
You act like a shit, you get treated like a shit.
Ed, while I agree with your sentiment of act like shit, get treated like shit, that’s not what Matthew is arguing against.
Matthew (and all reasonable people) are against giving such ultimate power to individuals without any due process. Imagine this: YOU board a plane with an unreasonable power tripping FA who is looking to grind their axe. You politely correct them when they repeat your dinner request incorrectly. They say you are being aggressive but you respond calmly stating that they simply repeated the wrong dish. They now consider you to be combative and hostile. You’ve been reported to the purser and captain. Banned. Yes, it’s that easy. While I’m not on a no-fly list with any airline, that exact situation happened to me two years ago on AA. I was in absolute disbelief. I swore to never fly them again due to that treatment. We, reasonably acting passengers need to protect ourselves. Let law enforcement arrest and prosecute unruly passengers.
How do you bring it under control other than “hoping’ it will get better. if the non maskers are also the non vaxed (and i suspect they are) we will be stuck in mask land and variant land for the forseeable future. Frankly i don’t think my freedoms should be affected adversely by another’s possibly irrational idea of their freedoms. Do they start smoking again just to put their freedoms ahead of mine. or bring their pistol aboard to demonstrate their rights; or arrive drunk and expect to be accomodated? If it was unreasonable, i might be on their side considering my independent streak, but the request (requirement) is reasonable. Unreasonable would be to require me to wear my tux on board, or that i have zero carry ons, or not stand up the entire flight. For a public health emergency when you demonstrate unruly behavior to enforce your rights, the airlines have a right to create a customer blacklist and share it with others…..WN is not demanding UA deny boarding to Joe and Debbie Noname, by sharing, they are giving them the option….of at least taking the passengers “temperature’ prior to boarding.
Thank you Matt & Gary. Wholeheartedly agree.
Due process may be inconvenient, but it’s a principle that keeps us all safe. Any suggestion that suspension of it, even temporarily, for a greater good is more dangerous than any pandemic.
Very bad idea – no due process. BTW, are masks being required on the Haitian deportation flights?
I thought about your photo-taking incident from years ago when I first heard about this shared ban list. I’m not sympathetic to people who are inflight nuisances, but I also don’t want a rogue set of flight attendants to determine that someone should be banned, for any amount of time, from flying on any airline.
I think you are too angry to fly now. Stop the criticism and get over the privilege- these flight attendants have worked through a horrible time. Give it up.
So people who are victims of violent crimes are allowed to commit violent crimes? That is essentially your logic. Being treated badly does not come with a bonus prize of telling others to “get over” your own inhumane behavior. Enablers, such as yourself, perpetuate this culture of special classes exempt from criticism or consequences. Put more directly, you are running right alongside the disruptive few in creating a culture where standards disappear and nobody is happy or safe. Shame on you.
I’ll give you a real-life example of why this is a bad idea. Some years ago, a power-tripping AA check-in agent at SEA decided to flat out make up the baggage rules concerning assistive medical devices, and told my mother she’d have to pay $200 to check one in because it was overweight. Federal law is quite clear that this is 100% false, and my mother politely but firmly pushed back. Said agent then claimed she was being “argumentative” and threatened to boot her and my dad from the flight if she basically didn’t shut up and pay the fee. All while her sidekick at the next counter watched, and said and did nothing. I leaned over and told her to just pay and I’d help her get her money back after we got home (a DOT complaint did the trick), but under DL’s proposal, if they’d gotten booted for being “argumentative”, both could have been banned from flying commercially, period. Not for real misbehavior, but because a rogue employee made up rules and then got offended when called on it. Until/unless the airlines want to get serious about cleaning their own houses of power-tripping employees, they don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt on handling this fairly.
Ultimately, I think you’re right, the answer is for federal and/or state prosecutors to deal with disorderly passengers swiftly and appropriately. Then if the FAA wants to add anyone convicted of or pleading guilty to charges related to onboard misbehavior to a nationwide no-fly list, go for it – that actually strikes me as a sensible consequence.
I agree with Matthew. A big problem is the ethics and professionalism of flight attendants are less than pilots or surgeons. Sorry, but true. Pilots and surgeons don’t want to lose their credentials because that is career suicide. Flight attendants can easily change careers. Whatever the reason, FAs are just a varied bunch, at least a few not so good. FAs should not determine that someone is banned from flying on all airlines.
Agreed 100%. We should not give up on due process at any stage of this fight against Covid. We have already seen some of the slippery slope issues that have come up since.
(Yes, I am double vaxxed and proudly support everyone taking the vaccine asap.
Ann Lynch’s comment above is exactly why such a list is a bad idea. Just the words “I think” a flight attendant “thinks” you shouldn’t fly. Just go back and watch the old Southwest reality show where they would disallow passengers on planes due to being drunk, etc. Although there is no “right” to fly it shouldn’t be decided by a judge, jury, and executioner from a flight crew or as a gate agent.
You do realise this is how the US government operates broadly with its foreign policy?
I say let the airlines do whatever they want! They seem hell-bent on their own destruction and anything that facilitates their not-soon-enough elimination, the better. Ban anyone for anything? Hilarious! Yes! Like the man trying keep warm by burning his down, these morons are so confused about their own business they deserve to disappear.
I very much disagree with you and I think this is a fine policy. While what happened to David Dao was horrible and I don’t want it to happen to anyone, at the end of the day he refused to obey flight crew instructions (after that with CPD injuring him that is a different story and should never have happened). When you have someone in a metal tube flying at 500mph you don’t want there even to be a chance of a disruptive passenger. With the amount of Video that we see of incidents there is ample justification for there being a national no fly list.
I guess none of these people supporting the “No Fly List” have ever witnessed airline personnel act like sht.
Like those AA nazi forcing you to gate-check a bag that clarly fit in the locker because you have to push through it and it does not slide on as if it was coated with a pot of lube.
Just sayin’ Beware what you wish for. In this age and time, flight attendant have already way too much power