The Rise Of Disruptive Passengers & The “No Fly” List

Shoves, shouts, flying fists and mask defiance: Bad behaviour by air travelers is reaching new heights. Just this last week, we have heard many cases of unruly and aggressive passengers getting out of control, including one incident in which the “unruly” passenger was a flight attendant himself. Social media platforms have exploded with raw videos of these incidents regarding “anti-maskers” with the FAA cracking down on mask mandates and airline’s stepping up their policies. It has been an extremely rough year for flight attendants between layoffs, limited working hours, and now dealing with disruptive passengers.

Often, these passengers get so out of control that other passengers are needed to subdue the individual. Depending on the circumstances, the crew may decide to continue to its original destination or divert the flight to the nearest airport. The passenger is then escorted off the plane and taken into custody where the individual may face an enormous cash penalty. According to the FAA’s policy, unruly passengers could face criminal charges, fines up to $35,000, or a lifetime ban on certain airlines (aka “The No-Fly List”).

The “No Fly” List

The No Fly List is maintained by the government. It is intended to stop foreign nationals from air travel and ban individuals who caused incidents after 9/11. It also applies to those who have been associated with the January 6th Riot at the Capitol. This list actually prevents most passengers from even making it to the gate or airplane in the first place. According to the TSA, passengers are screened before checking in. If a person is currently on a “No Fly and Selectee List” (a component of the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database), a boarding pass won’t be issued and the individual will not be allowed to fly.

However, the airlines also maintain their own “lists” of banned passengers. Based on data reported by the major airlines that release this information, roughly 3,000 people are on at least one airline list. These lists are then kept and shared.

Statics Regarding Number of Cases

The FAA admitted that it has received about 2,900 reports of unruly passenger behavior since January 1st. Roughly 2,200 of those involved passengers who would not comply with the federal mandate to wear a face covering. The agency identified potential violations in 446 of those cases and has started enforcement action in 42. When the FAA last released an update on May 24, it had gotten 2,500 reports of bad behavior with about 1,900 involving masks. The agency has not tracked the number of such reports from airlines in past years, but it said it investigated a total of 1,548 unruly passenger cases between 2010 and 2020.

Bad passenger behavior is nothing new. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) raised an alarm on the issue of unruly passengers a few years ago. The global group said it had gotten reports of more than 66,000 incidents between 2007 and 2017.

Causal Factors

Mask tensions have piled on top of anger that flight attendants were seeing among passengers before the pandemic. People have had it, sitting in ever-shrinking seats, closer to neighbours in economy sections. During the past few months political affairs, hateful speech, and racist comments make their way onboard which contributes to civil unrest and a disturbance of peace among fellow passengers.

Shrinking leg room, political affairs, and racial remarks have resulted in unsettling incidents onboard flights.
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Mental health concerns, drugs, and alcohol are also at the root as to why these behaviours are being provoked by the normal procedures of air travel.

The pandemic has indeed tested everyone’s patience and sanity. However, this is no excuse for leaving good behavior in the airport or at the airplane door.


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