KLM Wants Passengers Banned By One Airline To Be Banned By All Airlines Worldwide

Delta’s CEO called for a national no fly list for unruly behavior, act poorly on one airline be unable to fly any airline. Highly problematic, with no standards for being placed on that list (each airline applies its own!) or opportunity for judicial review. That didn’t go anywhere though it’s something the Biden administration toyed with.

Now Dutch airlines KLM and Transavia want this as an international system, and will begin by sharing unruly passenger behavior which each other. That step actually does make sense – since Transavia is owned by Air France KLM, and didn’t previously share data with itself.

However suggestions of a broader elimination of the right to travel based on non-judicial proceedings carried out by a single airline is insane. They want to see this extended more broadly throughout Europe and eventually the world.

In time, such efforts should focus on developing a set of international rules and on harmonisation. After all, the issue of unacceptable passenger behaviour transcends airlines and national borders and is critical to improving safety in the air. Unfortunately, legislation is lacking in many countries or the regulations are so fragmented that it is impossible to share data in a manner that promotes flight safety.

A no fly list won’t help when the underlying cause of the behavior is substance abuse or mental illness. And if deterrence is the goal then it would be far simpler to push for tougher penalties for inflight disturbances. Prosecute actual bad behavior, rather than circumventing the judicial system.

  • Who gets to add people to this list? Would a Chinese state airline be able to add passengers to the ‘unruly’ list, banning them from travel even though they’re outside the country already? This extends China’s social credit system to dissidents around the world.

  • What standards would be applied in adding someone to the list? If a passenger on a Thai Airways domestic flight insulted Thailand’s king, pointing out that he’d spent much of his time during the pandemic in Germany with his harem, would that justify banning that passenger from U.S. domestic travel?

    Even American Airlines and Delta apply different standards when banning passengers. Surely the standards of Air Koryo and KLM are too different to be mutually relied upon.

  • How would mistakes and abuses be addressed? U.S. terrorism watch lists have had people added by mistake, an FBI agent checking the wrong box on a form, and some people have names that are similar to those intended as targets. The process of redress is opaque, there are redress numbers but not everyone can get one (when they aren’t even told why they’re on the list) and it often takes extensive court proceedings before the federal government backs off rather than subjecting itself to judicial review. But what if the passenger was added to a list in Kyrgyzstan? Whom do you even appeal to?

Data sharing is one thing, announcing that a given passenger was added to a no fly list for a specific behavior, allowing other airlines to make their own decisions – provided that passengers can sue for damages when added under false pretenses, and holding airlines liable for mistakes. That would scare most airlines off of acting on the basis of such a list (as well it should!).

Ultimately any punishment that entails taking away the right to travel by air should be imposed after a judicial proceeding, where a specific crime is declared to risk this punishment explicitly and in advance, and for that punishment to extend extra-territorially only by explicit treaty.

Extending the ability to limit the civil rights of people around the world to Ariana Afghan Airlines – and by extension the Taliban – the literally the definition of insane to anyone that respects the values of liberal democracy.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. I think we can all agree it should be the case when the passenger is banned for violence. Such as any of the individuals who have punched out a flight attendant or passenger. Let’s start with that.

  2. I honestly don’t know how any thoughtful person could think this is a good idea given the many issues which you have raised. I support strict penalties for bad in flight behavior, as this is dangerous and has wide impacts. But as with any punishment of wrong doing, the accused must have due process, including a right to defend oneself and the right to appeal.

  3. There is no right to travel so makes sense to ban offenders. I’m sure there could be a way to notify them and have a central database (maybe run by IATA) so people could know if added and common list so individual airlines wouldn’t have to manage this.

    Only thing I would hope is there are defined criteria of what gets someone on the list and a process to appeal it

  4. Those advocating for this are the same people who want criminals(read rapist and murderers) to go free

  5. @Doug – this isn’t a criminal case where someone loses their freedom. Also there is no right to travel. Governments and airlines are within their right to reasonably resist flight access based on passenger behavior. People seem to confuse this with the legal process but they are totally different issues. On a slightly related note wait until next summer when people show up at an airport with a Real ID license (or other document such as their passport) and are told they can’t go through security after they paid for a ticket and planned a trip. I just want to pull up a chair at security and watch the show

  6. How about second chances, last chance, etc.?

    For worldwide ban on flying, there must be some kind of judicial review or due process. I wouldn’t trust a biased pencil-pusher to make that decision!

  7. @Kalboz – there doesn’t have to be judicial review or due process since this isn’t a legal right or part of the legal process. I do agree in well defined criteria, a centrally administered database (run by a 3rd. Party separate from any individual airline), clear notification of impacted people, for res systems to check the database and not allow someone on it to purchase a ticket and an appeal process however these are separate from the rights under the legal system. That wouldn’t stop individual governments from passing laws blocking this process (in the US states, such as CA, couldn’t block it since the Federal government sets airline travel rules) but, if implemented correctly, I think this is a great idea. Certain people shouldn’t be allowed to travel

  8. Me thinks those lazy Dutchies should take care of their dirty planes, the appalling lazy service and the worlds most disgraceful airport before worrying about what others are doing, get your own house in order you freaks

  9. Although unruly behavior has NO place in the sky, this is total insanity. No standards, no due-process? The sharing of personal information without consent? But in the moronic world of airline executives and government officials, it’s not wonder that the idea is getting traction.

    Here’s a thought: when airlines cease to ask for and receive government subsidies, they can discriminate and refuse service to anyone and for any reason. Airlines get that money because they are critical to the nation’s infrastructure. There are plenty of laws that protect passengers and flight crews from unruly passengers. Airlines need to use law enforcement and the judicial system, just like the rest of us. There is no justification for placing airlines ‘above the law’.

  10. No mercy! Flying is a privilege not a right. It’s bad enough to be suffocated in a middle seat between two obese people!

  11. Not once, nor twice, but three times AC decided to self-proclaim themself as a legal expert, and make a fool of themself:

    “The right to travel is a part of the liberty of which the citizen cannot be deprived without due process of law under the Fifth Amendment.” – Kent v. Dulles, 357 U.S. 116, 125 (1958)

  12. @TexasTJ – how about doing a little research. That ruling is that people can’t be prohibited from travel (except under court order). It doesn’t rule there is a right to AIR travel. There are other options so, yes, people can be prohibited from flying. Otherwise airline restrictions and no fly lists would be illegal.

    Now don’t you feel smarter!

  13. @Gary @Liam @Doug – well said

    @AC – with logic as dangerous & backwards as yours, thankfully your authority only reaches as far as your keyboard

  14. Guilty until proven innocent? What could possibly go wrong.
    So, what if one airline like KLM makes an error and goes Hertz on their customers?
    No airline should have that kind of power. They could destroy people’s lives.

  15. I’m with WOW, thanks for proving my point, AC… Clearly the right to travel freely is subject to case law, related to Due Process as articulated in the 5th Amendment. In any event, it is absolutely not proven to be a legal fact one way or the other, as you had unequivocally insisted. Please immediately stop shouting down other commentators, declaring legal “facts” that you know nothing about.

  16. Last comment on this since you have no understanding of private company rights related to travel.

    While the right to travel is legit (and I agree supported by the constitution) it isn’t without limits and also doesn’t mean you can travel in a manner you want. You can be blocked from air travel and still get to your destination by other means (ship if necessary). That is why it wouldn’t be illegal to block people from traveling (as is done today for some).

    This likely won’t happen but it could under current law and court rulings. Otherwise no fly lists today would be illegal.

    Not responding any more as you all are more worried about the impact than making a compelling case why it would be prohibited (which it wouldn’t)

  17. Universally imposing this by regulatory fiat would be insane for all the reasons enumerated, and more. However, voluntary data sharing at scale seems worth exploring:

    -with limited exceptions, most airlines aren’t going to see much of a business case for cross-banning the pax who recognize Taiwan’s sovereignty or insult Thai monarchs (quite the contrary)

    -but conversely they may well see the business case for cross-banning the pax who decked an FA for yeeting him out of his self-upgraded seat – and that’s a good thing!

    IMHO the bigger problem is that airlines (particularly the US-based ones) aren’t very good at hiring frontline employees who are capable of resisting the urge to power-trip with their authority; or at least at holding said employees to a reasonable standard of proof post-hoc. However, the solution here isn’t to abolish data sharing, it’s to abolish the protectionism that shields US airlines from the market consequences of their lackluster frontline employee standards.

  18. The Due Process issues relate to the government imposing restrictions. They don’t relate to the industry imposing restrictions.

  19. This should definitely be the case if criminal charges have been filed and ESPECIALLY if the passenger has been convicted.

  20. Sorry, AC, trying to belittle me and then definitively state that your comment is the final word on this isn’t going to work. You are wrong, Gary said it best:

    “Ultimately any punishment that entails taking away the right to travel by air should be imposed after a judicial proceeding, where a specific crime is declared to risk this punishment explicitly and in advance, and for that punishment to extend extra-territorially only by explicit treaty.

    Extending the ability to limit the civil rights of people around the world to Ariana Afghan Airlines – and by extension the Taliban – the literally the definition of insane to anyone that respects the values of liberal democracy”.

  21. This is the same country that used weapons of war against their own farmers a few months ago.

    Can’t wait till climate change puts the dutch under the sea.

  22. Absolutely not. So if a Chinese airline bans someone critical of their human rights record, arguing they were “violent” or “threatening” or just making something up out of thin air, they would be banned from all airlines? What about critics of Saudi Arabia? Ignore that, what about the David Daos of the world? This type of power would absolutely be used inappropriately punish or simply pressure all sorts of people — not just violent ones.

  23. The potential for abuses is unending. One airline hates gays and adds all gay people to the list. Another hates women who show more than their hands and adds them to the list. Another hates people in shorts, another hates fat people, another hates everyone from a particular country, another hates people who skiplag. And on and on.

    I could only support this idea if the person is specifically convicted of a violent crime after a transparent judicial process with right to appeal, and even then I see lots of potential issues.

  24. In a liberal democracy, it is one thing for the government to say that a particular person may not fly on any airline but it is another thing for the government to force all airlines to enter into a contract of carriage with anyone who has cash to buy a ticket.

    Let the flight bans come from the airlines as opposed to the government and the question of preserving rights goes away.

  25. I’ve been flying commercial a long time – back to props on Delta & Eastern (few more I think). Flown a lot of places around a lot of different people. Just get in the damn plane, sit down, shut-up and keep your hands to yourself. You’ll do just fine. Enough of this BS.

  26. What’s to say they aren’t quietly doing this already? I think we know that when your typical bureaucrat thinks they have power then that authority will be used until and unless something stops them. And if nothing does, pretty soon it become a “normal” procedure. Anyway, given the chaotic and furtive mess that is the US no-fly list(s) you can expect such a disaster to be magnified many times over once private industry gets their hands on it. And they won’t let go either.

  27. That’s a good private market solution to the costly unruly passenger problem.

    But Gary now wants this to be regulated by the government?


  28. KLM should put its own house in order instead of trying to make an administrative, extrajudicial punishment system meant to arbitrarily ground people. And the idea of letting more airlines collude even more against passengers should also be considered an anathema to competition and trade.

  29. Something needs to be done. Some passengers conduct is both outrageous & violent & would be grounds for a no flight list. The list does not have to be a forever ban. A 5 year ban would be a great start. Add to this criminal charges that are strictly & swiftly enforced so that justice is served with harsh penalties incurred.

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