U.S. Senate and House members proposed a new no-fly list for unruly passengers on Wednesday, an idea that was pushed by airline unions but failed to gain traction last year. The legislation would let the Transportation Security Administration ban people convicted or fined for assaulting or interfering with airline crew members. It would be separate from the current FBI-run no-fly list, which is intended to prevent people suspected of terrorism ties from boarding planes.
The number of incidents involving unruly passengers dropped sharply last year after a judge struck down a federal requirement to wear masks on planes. However, incidents serious enough to be investigated by federal officials remained more than five times higher than before the pandemic.
“The violent incidents have not stopped,” said Cher Taylor, a Frontier Airlines flight attendant who said she witnessed a passenger attack another in 2021 in Miami and walk away before police arrived. At a news conference outside the Capitol Taylor said “Strong penalties are needed to curb violent and unacceptable behavior. Bad behavior should not fly.”
Civil libertarians vowed to oppose the measure. They say the FBI no-fly list is not transparent and unfairly targets people of color, and that the new list would have the same problems. They also say that the Federal Aviation Administration is cracking down on bad behavior, and that reports of unruly passengers are declining.
“If Congress wants to further reduce air-rage incidents on aircraft, it should look at forcing the airlines to make flying a less miserable experience,” said Jay Stanley, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union.
The new measure was introduced by Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, and Reps. Eric Swalwell, D-California, and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pennsylvania.
The lawmakers said the bill includes guidelines for notifying people that they are being placed on the list, and how to appeal. The bill would let TSA decide how a person would be banned from flying on commercial planes.
Similar legislation failed to get a hearing in Congress last year. Supporters hope their chances have improved because of high-profile incidents like that involving a passenger who stabbed at a flight attendant with a broken-off spoon this month.
Individual airlines maintain lists of passengers they have banned but resist sharing names with other airlines, partly out of fear they could violate laws against cooperation among competing carriers.
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