Delta Has Asked The Attorney General To Place Unruly Passengers On A Terrorism List

Delta CEO Ed Bastian has approached the U.S. Attorney General seeking to put unruly passengers on a terrorist list that would deny future travel across all airlines. This is mostly for show, but anyone concerned with civil liberties should e-mail Ed Bastian.

In the fall Delta Air Lines proposed that any passenger banned over masks from flying one airline should be banned by all airlines. American Airlines CEO scoffed at this notion in internal meetings, noting that each airline has different standards for banning passengers making this unworkable.

Delta’s CEO was responding to government pressure to come up with a plan to address incidents. His proposed national no fly list for unruly passengers amounted to acting as an agent of the government, creating due process problems. (It was no longer just ‘a private company choosing to deny service’).

I argued at the time that this effectively placed mask non-compliant passengers on a terrorism watch list (which by the way was recently leaked online and whose legality the ACLU is currently challenging). Nonetheless the Biden administration got behind the plan.

Now Delta CEO Ed Bastian has written to Attorney General Merrick Garland seeking a national no fly list. (Copy of letter.)

  • He’d limit such a list to those passengers convicted of on board disturbances

  • And he’d use terrorism lists for this purpose,

    Delta noted there is currently a no-fly list that is a subset of the terrorism watch list that allows the U.S. government to prohibit persons considered a threat to civil aviation from traveling on airlines.

Less than 1% of people charged with mask incidents even wind up paying a fine. Most incidents never end up with criminal charges. That makes this whole effort mostly a sham. And yet it’s still highly problematic.

  1. If the consequence of criminal behavior is a lifetime ban from commercial air travel, that needs to be spelled out in the law. Congress needs to legislate it, rather than having the Administration impose it by fiat.

  2. Any conviction for any inflight disturbance leading to a lifetime ban which fundamentally inhibits the fundamental right to interstate travel would seem to have an eighth amendment problem. (On a right to travel see generally Crandall v. Nevada, 73 U.S. 35 (1868) and United States v. Guest, 383 U.S. 745 (1966). While the Supreme court hasn’t found a specific right to particular modes of transportation, placing restrictions on air travel from New York to California or Miami to Seattle would represent a substantial burden on these rights.)

  3. This doesn’t provide for any opportunity for convicts to be reformed. Do something stupid on a college trip to Cancun and you won’t be able to take a 50th anniversary cruise in Asia?

  4. Government no fly lists lack appeal and judicial review, and people have been placed on them by mistake or out of malice. In other words, even if it’s supposed to be limited to those convicted of a specific set of crimes, it may not be so limited and getting a clerical issue like that corrected becomes difficult or impossible.

I remember a time – just 13 months ago – when liberals were concerned with executive power, over fears what an unconstrained President might do with it.

(HT: @crucker)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. People who pay all that money to travel and then act unruly have serious mental issues. They lose their money in the longrun and then get labeled by the government.

  2. Ummm, I don’t think “terrorism” means what Delta thinks it means….


    Dumbest thing I read today.

  3. I agree that placing on a national list for all airlines should only be done after conviction by a US court.
    I also agree w/ Gary that there needs to be a specific time limit that is considerably less than forever.

    Airlines are going to look out for their own self-interests but let’s also make sure that we are dealing w/ crime in our cities where it is costing people their lives – which doesn’t happen in the air. Like it or not, but airlines are just one part of the changing mindset toward public behavior and crime. There is no reason why airlines should get preferential treatment but there is also no reason why people should be subjected to crime in the very cities where Delta makes boatloads of money (in good times) because there is a different approach to “general urban crime” than there is to crime that affects airlines. It is all wrong. Fix it all.

  4. Yes what we need is to have our ability to ever fly anywhere governed by an overzealous power-hungry flight attendant having a bad day.

  5. Don’t understand all of these negative comments about this story. Evidently, none of you have been on a flight where you are halfway to your destination and the plane has to turn around or be diverted to another airport/country because of these idiots. So if you are happy with this then by all means keep entitling these idiots. But for me personally, if you can’t act like a supposedly grown/mature adult and abide by the rules set down by the airlines then get into your car and drive, as you have no “RIGHT” to inconvenience others and delay their travels. On another note, if you want to see the dumbest people, then watch these same individuals try to board/deplane an aircraft. Reminds me of Saturday morning cartoons.

  6. This is nonsensical. If airlines want to ban do not fly passengers fine. If they want to share this list with other airlines that is fine too. Don’t need the government involved in this.

  7. No problem if they want to share info and ban unruly across all airlines but terrorist watch list?

    Delta needs to share what Ed has been smoking. What a tool.

  8. “ I remember a time – just 13 months ago – when liberals were concerned with executive power, over fears what an unconstrained President might do with it.”

    I remember a time-just 13 months ago-the conservatives considered themselves the party representing law and order. Now they support overthrowing the elections and storming the Capital.

    But I still struggle with the current administration being tagged here. They have been requested to act, did I miss where they acted? Thought not. But nice try. You sound like Jackass Waterson here.

  9. The odds of this actually happening are, thankfully, pretty small. In addition to the legal issues Gary noted, it would be a political mess.

  10. What this is trending toward, and what the United States ultimately needs, is something of a social credit score. A holes banned everywhere.

  11. Even if only just because this airline-wishlist for expanded blacklists would — at least in the medium term — further cement the passenger “ID is security” nonsense as a requirement to fly domestically by common carrier means from US airports, I oppose any and all effort to require passenger ID to fly domestically.

    Oppose the government’s ID-to-fly-as-a-domestic-passenger requirement, and oppose cross-company collusion in and/or on behalf of companies in the industry, and that undercuts the “blacklist ‘em” approach being peddled by this airline too.

  12. Gee you wonder who is GUWonder because he/she/they/it has the right idea. Why the IF YOU SEE KAY do we need ID to fly domestically? I would even go as far as arguing that we should not need ID, period. I have the right to keep my identity private at all times unless I am asking a favor of some sort. When I travel, I am not asking for a favor. I am exercising my human right of freedom of movement.

    All countries should have open borders. Do politicians ever stop to think that borders are artificial constructs that have torn people, families, and entire human societies apart?

  13. Suggestion: You would be able to redeem just 10,000,000 Skypesos to get yourself removed from this list LOL

  14. @Big Booty

    Are you too young to remember September 11, 2001?
    As I recall, those were all domestic flights.

  15. DAVID STONE- When LAWS & SAFETY & PUBLIC HEALTH STANDARDS go away then there are no crimes or violations?
    Come On Man !

  16. Libs have become so militant. Bunch of Karens. “Let me talk to your president!” when there is stuff they don’t like.

  17. Ray you really do not have your facts straight..Hope your happy with a demented Prez who does not know his name or where he is most of the time….Great pick libs…

  18. Pete,

    Checking passenger ID for domestic flights on 9/11 wouldn’t have stopped the 9/11 attacks.

    The absence of a general passenger ID requirement to fly on common carriers domestically on 9/11 was not even a contributing factor to the 9/11 hijackers ability to do what they did that day.

    Passenger ID requirements since then have been drawing away focus and resources away from more effectively interdicting prohibited weapons, explosives and incendiaries at US airports. This passenger ID checking is a make-work program that runs up the bills In the name of aviation security while doing little more than securing revenue for airlines by having pulled out the rug from airline ticket scalpers.

  19. Gary,

    Any airline can ban a person from ever flying them. That should happen! It is within the rights of any airline to refuse service, PERIOD!

    Now if a person is convicted of some type of crime involving air travel, yes they need to be permanently banned. That needs to happen to protect other passengers from the violence that is happening. Recently some guy raped a woman on a United flight to LHR. If after investigation, he is charged and convicted, then he needs to banned from air travel, PERIOD!

    Anyone who thinks that allowing these maniacs to fly is okay, really needs to have their moral compass examined.

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