Congress Proposes New Legislation to Place 'Unruly Passengers' on a No-Fly List

The FAA reported 5,981 unruly passenger incidents in 2021

Upset businesswoman checking in at airport ticket counter

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Last week, lawmakers proposed new bipartisan legislation that would place unruly airline passengers convicted of assaulting travelers, flight attendants, or other aircrew members on a commercial no-fly list.

The "Proposal from Abusive Passengers Act" was put forth by U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D–R.I.) and U.S. Representatives Eric Swalwell (D–Calif.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R–Penn.).

"Our bill seeks to help make the friendly skies a little friendlier—and safer. There should be zero tolerance for violence aboard an airplane," said Senator Reed in a statement. "And our message is simple: If you assault a flight crew member and compromise the safety of others aboard the aircraft, you're going to be grounded. Because major disturbances in the cabin can compromise the safety of everyone on board a flight."

The commercial no-fly list would be overseen by the Transportation Security Administration, with officials flagging those who are ineligible. While banned passengers would have the opportunity to appeal, they would be permanently prohibited from using TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. Senator Reed hopes that the bill will "help reduce incidents of in-flight violence and hold unruly passengers accountable if they break the law."

"Unfortunately, too many of our pilots, flight attendants, and crew members are dealing with unacceptable abuse from passengers—everything from kicking to spitting to biting," said Representative Swalwell. "This behavior is not only inappropriate, but it also puts other crew and passengers at risk."

In a 2021 study, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA found that, of the 5,000 flight attendants surveyed, more than 85 percent had "dealt with unruly passengers as air travel picked up in the first half" of the year. Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration confirms that 2021 saw a reported 5,981 unruly passenger incidents; of these, 1,113 incidents were investigated—the highest number since 2004, when the administration reported 310 investigations.

The "Protection from Abusive Passengers Act" is supported by several coalitions and airlines, including the AFA, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and Southwest Airlines—the latter two of which were late to resume alcohol service during the pandemic due to unruly passengers.

"Right now, a passenger can be fined or convicted and maybe banned on an individual airline—but that does not prevent this violent offender from flying another airline," said Sara Nelson, president of the AFA. "This bill would change that. It's really just a handful of bad actors who need to be grounded and face consequences for their violent actions."

Article Sources
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  1. Congressman Eric Swalwell. "To Prevent Violent 'Air Rage' Incidents From Taking Off, Reed, Swalwell & Fitzpatrick Introduce Bill to Ground Unruly Passengers." April 6, 2022.

  2. Congressman Eric Swalwell. "To Prevent Violent 'Air Rage' Incidents From Taking Off, Reed, Swalwell & Fitzpatrick Introduce Bill to Ground Unruly Passengers." April 6, 2022.

  3. Association of Flight Attendants-CWA. "85 Percent of Flight Attendants Dealt With Unruly Passengers, Nearly 1 in 5 Experienced Physical Incidents in 2021." July 29, 2021.

  4. Federal Aviation Administration. "Unruly Passengers." Accessed April 14, 2022.