Workplace violence Legislation Air Transportation

Legislators push to bar unruly passengers from commercial flights

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Photo: Pollyana Ventura/iStockphoto

Washington — People who’ve been convicted of assaulting airline employees would be prohibited from boarding commercial aircraft, under bipartisan legislation introduced April 6 in the House and Senate.

Sponsored by Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Reps. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), the Protection from Abusive Passengers Act (S. 4019 and H.R. 7433) comes in response to what the Federal Aviation Administration calls “a disturbing increase” of onboard acts of violence or unruly behavior by passengers against airline workers.

The legislation would establish a “no-fly” list, managed by the Transportation Security Administration, that bans anyone with a criminal history of onboard violence from flights. According to FAA statistics, as of April 26, the agency this year has fielded more than 1,200 reports of unruly passenger behavior, with over 800 of the incidents involving passengers’ hostility toward the now-withdrawn federal mask mandate related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

The Transport Workers Union of America, which represents more than 65,000 aviation employees, supports the legislation.

“Our members have had to deal with this violent, full-moon atmosphere for far too long,” TWU International President John Samuelsen said in a press release. “TWU strongly believes this banned passenger list will ease some of the pain our members are experiencing and make our skies safer.” In a separate release, Reed said the legislation “will help reduce incidents of in-flight violence and hold unruly passengers accountable if they break the law.”

He added: “There should be zero tolerance for violence aboard an airplane. 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.”

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