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Labor Unions Applaud “Protection from Abusive Passengers Act”

Front-line aviation workers are hailing a new piece of legislation aimed at permanently grounding flyers involved in unruly incidents.
A newly proposed bill could ground passengers who verbally accost or attack airline employees mid-flight, placing them on a no-fly list and barring them from joining a trusted travel program.


Oakland Fox affiliate KTVU-TV reports Democratic lawmakers Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) and Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) have introduced the Protection from Abusive Passengers Act, which would create rules for the Transportation Security Administration to put badly behaving passengers on a national ban list.


“Protection from Abusive Passengers Act” Goes Beyond Airline Ban Lists

Since 2021, airlines have independently managed their own ban lists for unruly passengers, while the Federal Aviation Administration announced civil penalties for those who do not follow the rules. While it is unknown exactly how many passengers have been banned by airlines, estimates from previous releases puts it over 4,000 people. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, airlines forwarded nearly 6,000 unruly passenger reports to the agency in 2021, but they only initiated 350 enforcement cases.


Instead of leaving enforcement up to airlines and the FAA, the bill would instead create a national no-fly list of anyone found to disrupt a flight with their behavior. An unruly passenger would receive a notice from the TSA about their proposed ban and can appeal the case. If it is upheld, not only would passengers lose privileges to fly aboard any airline but will also be banned for life from both TSA PreCheck and Global Entry.


The proposal is earning praise from labor unions representing front-line aviation workers across companies. The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants and the Transport Workers of America have all expressed support for the legislation to become law.


“Violence and disruptions put everyone at risk and disrupts the safety of flight. That is never acceptable,” Sara Nelson, president of the AFA-CWA, said in a statement to FlyerTalk. “We’ve been punched, kicked, spit on, and sexually assaulted. We urge members of Congress to co-sign this bill and pass this legislation without delay. Hold violent passengers accountable, protect aviation workers and improve aviation safety.”


“There must be severe consequences for injuring Flight Attendants,” APFA national president Julie Hedrick said in a statement to FlyerTalk. “We need the accountability of a federal “no-fly” list to protect all crewmembers and passengers across the industry.”


Bill Would Replace Potential Order from FAA and TSA

If the bill is passed into law, it would replace a proposed order considered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the TSA to make a no-fly list. The original rule was opposed by Republican lawmakers, who campaigned to end the federal face mask mandate.

AsiaTravel2019 April 9, 2022

I agree that truly abusive travelers should be thrown off the plane (mid-air is fine with me.) 

The problem is who gets to decide what is "abusive." I think we have all experienced power-tripping FA's on the US airlines and they can get out of control. What are the safeguards against overreactions?

Edit: Now that I think about it, they could build-in some type of system where the traveler gets warned twice or something and then removed

nfrequenttraveler April 9, 2022

(apparently "pas*engers" triggers the filter, so I changed it to "riders")

I have a lot of sympathy for flight attendants, who in these past two years have had to deal with countless nomask riders or the drunk ones who pregame in the airport bar. However I have seen the other side. I had a power tripping FA refuse to let me stow my coat, told me to sit down even though the seatbelt light was off, and wouldn't provide water. The best thing about the flight was that it was only 4 hours. Imagine if this person had the power to impact whether or not you could fly for the rest of your life because you stood up to head for the bathroom.

I think flight crew should be vested with the same powers that many states grant train conductors on the ground (that is, powers such as lawful detention when a crime has been committed). But giving FAs the power to permanently ban people from flying for being "verbally accosted" (which is unconstitutionally vague) grants them too much power compared to the equally hard-working train crew/bus drivers on the ground.

Banning riders found unruly for life isn't proportionate to their actions in most cases. A ban/revocation of trusted traveler membership is already placed on riders who violate most air safety regulations. While the Union's happy about this, I'm sure Congress will give this more scrutiny and water it down to something more sensible.

SamirD April 9, 2022

Hmmmm...sounds like a good idea for sure, but there must be some due process and accountability along the way to prevent abuses from both sides.  It's not a solution if it causes another problem.

PDog April 8, 2022

"A newly proposed bill could ground those who verbally accost..."

How nebulous. Are there official standards of measurement for a verbal attack? Or can you be banned if the FA is having a bad day? 

AADFW April 8, 2022

I agree that truly unruly pax should be banned, but there has to be some sort of due process to protect customers from FAs who simply get up on the wrong side of bed. Anyone else remember the David Koss case from way back in December of 2009? If this list had been around back then, he'd have been put on it. And the burden of proof would have fallen on him, not the crazy FA, to prove that his conduct was not threatening or disruptive. Seems like a terrible idea.