U.S. airlines required passengers to wear masks before it was a federal requirement, and the standard penalty for refusing to follow the rule has been a ban from flying the airline – usually until the mask requirement is lifted.
Each airline has their own list, and their own standards for adding passengers to it. When a passenger is banned from flying one airline over mask-wearing, they are free to fly another airline.
It should be noted – as American Airlines explained to employees in an internal meeting last week – that any passengers who behave inappropriately in other ways go on the regular permanent banned list.
A passenger on the mask compliance ban list at American Airlines is otherwise peaceful. “Any physical threat, touching, name calling” gets a passenger placed on the misconduct ban list.
At Delta, we now have more than 1,600 people on our “no fly” list, and we’ve submitted more than 600 banned names to the FAA in 2021 as part of their Special Emphasis Enforcement Program.
We have also asked other airlines to share their “no fly” list to further protect airline employees across the industry. As we all know, a list of banned customers doesn’t work as well if that customer can fly with another airline.
This would effectively place mask non-compliant passengers on a list with the same effect as a terrorism no fly list which was recently leaked online and whose legality the ACLU is currently challenging. Nonetheless the Biden administration has considered adding ‘domestic extremists’ to terrorism lists. And Delta would like to add mask non-compliant passengers, as well.
Of course each airline has its own standard for adding passengers to such a list. While inclusion is potentially subject to a lawsuit, there’s no real due process for being added to such a list. It’s appropriate for an individual business to choose not to do business with a customer anymore. It’s far more questionable for a business to say that no one should be permitted to do business with that customer.
Adding an appeals process doesn’t change:
- the inconsistency, or
- the low threshold of proof required for an individual airline to ban a passenger.
American Airlines will add a passenger to their permanent ban list (not the mask list) if a passenger engages in name calling with an employee as long as it is corroborated by a fellow crewmember, according to the airline’s Vice President of Inflight Brady Byrnes. Two employees are enough to ban a passenger for life, with little opportunity for review. Should that be enough to ban a passenger for life from all air travel? And what if train and bus travel – both subject to masking requirements – are included as well? If anything it’s passengers on this list we’re most worried about, rather than the ones who refused to wear a mask but did not even engage in disrespectful behavior.
There are countless incidents of families being kicked off of planes because their two or three year old has had a difficult time wearing a mask. In some of these cases there are misunderstandings (like kicking off an 18 month old that isn’t required to wear a mask!) as the toddler has been eating a snack. A family gets removed from the aircraft, and may take another airline home. Adding such a family to an industry no fly list potentially strands them on the other side of the country.
— Disclose.tv 🚨 (@disclosetv) April 5, 2021
More of the @SpiritAirlines incident.
FYI, following the @FlyFrontier incident a few weeks back, @FAANews sent warning letters to passengers who at the time were not even accused of not wearing masks that they were in violation of the mask rule. Letter can’r even be appealed! pic.twitter.com/e7ZgQzA4NV
— Yossi Gestetner (@YossiGestetner) April 5, 2021
You might say that airlines, as private businesses, should be allowed to choose not to transport anyone they wish. But this shouldn’t be viewed as private action, it is state action. The proposal comes in response to an FAA threat that airlines had one week to come up with a solution to unruly passengers.
There is a federal regulation in place on masking. That has a fine as a maximum penalty. Pressuring airlines to impose a more significant penalty than provided for in regulation or law is highly problematic.
By the way I regularly fly with mask non-compliant crew and there are no similar penalties they would face under this proposal.
To be clear, I believe it is a good idea to wear a mask – a high quality mask, properly worn, not a thin strip of paper with two strings that meets federal rules. I plan to wear a mask during flu season in the future. Yet this approach seems like a bad idea.