A Union Wants to Put Unruly Plane Passengers on a No-Fly List


  • A transit union wants to create a no-fly list for unruly airplane passengers. 
  • The Federal Aviation Administration has seen an increase in incidents of unruly passengers this year. 
  • The transit union president described a “full moon atmosphere” where angry passengers feel emboldened to assault transit employees. 

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The president of a transit union appealed to Congress to add unruly airplane passengers to a no-fly list. 

“If there’s not a no-fly list, people are going to continue to assault plane crews and gate agents,” John Samuelsen, president of the Transport Workers Union, said when he addressed the House Homeland Security Committee on November 16. 

The call for a no-fly list comes as the Federal Aviation Administration has seen an alarming increase in incidents related to unruly and dangerous behavior. 

The FAA reported 5,240 incidents of unruly passengers as of November 16, with 3,798 of those incidents related to face masks. 

Samuelsen said the federal government “must do far more to protect transportation workers from assault.” 

Last month, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said that adding unruly passengers to a “no-fly list” should be an option.

“I think that should be on the table,” Buttigieg said. “It is completely unacceptable to mistreat, abuse, or even disrespect flight crews.”

Earlier this month, the FAA, which has received over 5,000 unruly passenger reports since the beginning of the year, sent 37 “most egregious” cases of unruly airline passenger behavior to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution. While the FAA adopted a zero-tolerance policy earlier this year, unions have said that fines and fees aren’t enough to prevent passengers’ unruly behavior.

According to Samuelsen, the violence against transportation employees has stretched beyond airlines and violent incidents that occur tens of thousands of feet in the air. 

“Across airlines, transit, and railroads, frontline workers overwhelmingly believe that the number one security threat in our transport systems today is physical assault in the performance of their duties,” Samuelsen said, according to a press release from the TWU, which represents some 150,000 transit workers.

“We are seeing a ‘full moon atmosphere’ across all our transport systems, where angry and frustrated passengers feel entitled to assault workers just because they are the face of the companies they work for,” he said. “There are many factors contributing to this atmosphere, and none of them have been created by the workers who are in harm’s way.”

One of the key frustrations for passengers has been caused by understaffing, Samuelsen said, adding that airlines collectively employ about 50,000 fewer employees than they did at the start of the pandemic. A lack of staff can lead to canceled flights and other travel disruptions, he added. 

Samuelsen testified that most assaults happen at “flashpoints” where employees are enforcing rules, such as safety protocols, mask requirements, or carry-on luggage limitations. 

“When these flashpoints arise, passengers who are already angry or frustrated take that anger out on the workers,” Samuelsen said. “Combating assaults on transport workers requires a holistic approach involving federal and local authorities, as well as transportation employers.”

A “banned passengers list” or a no-fly list could be under the Transportation Security Administration, which “already has processes in place for comparing passenger manifests to known security threats,” Samuelson said. 

“This approach would potentially allow the air and rail carriers’ reservation systems to prevent a banned passenger from even purchasing a ticket so that known assailants would not enter the airport or rail station,” Samuelson said in his written testimony



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