New Legislation Would Create No Fly List For Violent Passengers

Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) along with Congressmen Eric Swalwell (D-CA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) have introduced legislation to create a national no fly list for “passengers who participate in in-flight violence.” They tried this last year, but it did not go anywhere.

The problem with their approach is delegating authority to TSA to create “a formal process for companies and authorities to work together to develop a cohesive list of those bad actors.”

  • People who violate laws should be prosecuted and punished according to the law
  • That punishment might even be enhanced, compared to current law, by adding travel restrictions
  • What’s insane though is taking away civil rights protections – imposing travel bans as an administrative penalty without due process.

Proponents would say that there will be due process since bans would be limited to those who receive “a civil penalty or conviction” according to the text of the legislation. However the executive branch imposes civil penalties itself those are not imposed by a court.

Banning passengers from airlines – restricting their right to travel – is something that should only be done after a fair trial, something two separate branches of government (executive prosecuting and judicial convicting) agree on and with full rights of appeal.

We’re also far from the world of the pandemic where first time flyers were bringing their own alcohol on board (since airlines had stopped serving it) and getting into fights over masks. Proponents of ‘doing something’ that involves unilateral authority for the TSA to strip Americans of their rights argue that FAA data shows that there were “831 unruly passenger incidents in 2022, up from 146 in 2019.”

However it’s a mistake to make this comparison. Most pandemic-era passenger incidents involved masks, and the federal mask mandate was in place for nearly four months of 2022. The better data comparison will be a 12 month lookback starting in May, and to watch the downward trend. This bipartisan group is willing to hand more power to the Executive to address a problem very much in decline already using a handful of terrible anecdotal incidents.

Remember that when David Dao was dragged off of a United Express flight and bloodied he was initially accused of being a disruptive passenger.

Note also that currently-managed No Fly Lists include people added by mistake (FBI agent checking the wrong box on a form or having a name similar to someone else) and even added maliciously (such as retaliation for refusing to cooperate in an investigation). Denying the freedom of travel, without a judicial trial, is precisely mob rule outside of the rule of law.

Violent passengers on planes should be addressed by prosecuting those passengers for their behavior and imposing punishments according to law, not by layering on administrative travel bans. Any punishment that encumbers an American’s right to travel should be subject to an appropriate level of judicial review and scrutiny.

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. And if someone gets put on the list by mistake? They will go through a living hell trying to get off the list. Government CLOWNS don’t need more power.

  2. As a long time Libertarian I have zero problem with this. If someone commits a violent act (and I’m sure such acts would be well defined in the law) they should lose the right to fly on commercial planes. There is no right to travel in the Constitution and certainly no right to fly. You are all over this saying it is an infringement on the right to travel. No it isn’t – you just can’t fly. People can still drive or take a boat.

    Sorry but I fully support the government cracking down on those that commit violent acts on planes. Frankly it doesn’t matter who the President is (you are just trying to troll for clicks or feedback which used to be beneath you but this blog has degraded in so many ways). If you don’t commit violent acts you won’t be banned – just like saying if you don’t commit the crime you won’t have to do the time. Why is that so hard for you to accept?!

  3. David Dao WAS a disruptive passenger. Your hot take here is way off base. Absolutely people should be put on a no fly list. Flying is a privilege, not a right. If you’re causing disruption or getting violent on a plane, get on a Greyhound or an Amtrak where you belong.

  4. Governments are necessary because they maintain law and order. Laws are necessary for society to function. It’s about time the government steps in and sets the expectation that if you cannot adhere to standards of behavior you will not fly…ever again.

  5. As long as due process protections, including right to appeal, are in place, I don’t have a problem with this. And there should be length of sentence standards as well. While some acts may necessitate a lifetime ban, for others a 3, 5, or maybe 10 year ban may be more appropriate.

  6. @AC many of these anecdotes have included “hair-trigger” power trip actions by flight crews. As a long time Libertarian, I’m surprised you aren’t concerned about due process.

  7. As the writer H. L. Mencken said, “There is always an easy solution to every human problem—neat plausible and wrong.”

    Having grown up hearing people branded as “Communists,” “traitors,” “agitators”, and later “terrorists” and “liberals” (okay, that’s me) I know how easy it is to throw a label at somebody and how hard it is to get it off again. A person having a bad day that spirals out of control might be charged and put on the list (mission creep), they might be convicted and given a small fine and automatically put on the list, they might then have that overturned…and lots of luck getting off the many lists they will now be on! Does anybody seriously trust the federal government and big corporations to be efficient in restoring one’s civil rights, or in giving up their own power over people?

  8. AC is clearly not a Libertarian. I wonder if actually understands what the term means. Heck, he doesn’t even understand that the Constitution doesn’t grant anyone “rights”. That’s sad.

  9. Drivers licenses are regularly revoked following an administrative hearing after a DUI arrest (that can then be appealed to a court).

    I have zero problem with the Bozos pulling the stunts we read about being permanently barred from commercial air travel.

    There is no constitutional right to travel by commercial aircraft.

    That said, I don’t want TSA or DHS having ANYTHING to do with the hearing process.

  10. So the same people responsible for the mess that is America’s cities (no, our cities in Europe are not overrun with feces-throwing homeless) are now going to put people on no-fly lists without trial?

    Keep digging your own hole. You’re not going to like it, but it’ll be *diverse* and muh *equity* or something.

  11. @Loretta Jackson: No one is, or claims to be, from “Europe.”

    You are clearly a little troll.

    Perhaps you should learn what an administrative hearing is before opining further and evidencing your “European” intellect.

  12. Is there anything preventing the industry from doing this, on their own?Arline’s are some of the few entities I trust less than the government. In that case, rules forcing any kind of due process or appeal process would be necessary.

  13. Oh, @Loretta, if you were actually in Europe you would know that you live in a region that embraces diversity and equity…to the benefit of their entire society. You would also know that in many ways Europe’s regulatory environment is far more onerous than that of the US. Violent passengers are not tolerated in Europe. It is dealt with and dealt with quickly…without shooting someone or dragging them off a plane violently.

  14. Gary says the TSA has never caught a terrorist. Others say there hasn’t been a plane brought down in 22 years.

    Both statements are correct.

  15. Oh honeys, I am indeed in Europe. And the reason we don’t have violent pax on our aircraft here is because we didn’t tell Shaquonda that she’s a victim because something something civil war and now she’s entitled to stuff.

    Your days will come, fat Americans. Your days will come.

  16. Loretta — I too live in Europe – plenty, plenty, pleny of problems – so many that I wish I lived in the USA
    [redacted -gl]

  17. @Loretta Jackson: No you don’t.

    Gary: Where is her IP address routed from?

    Let’s out her as the liar she is.

  18. “There is no constitutional right to travel by commercial aircraft.”

    Ugh! Why is this so difficult to understand? The Constitution grants zero rights. Your individual rights are a product of your existence. The Constitution is a document that was intended to limit the power and authority of the Federal government. Granted, it failed miserably at that goal, but that doesn’t change the fact. If you want to invoke the Constitution in a discussion, at least have the knowledge to apply its function appropriately.

  19. I don’t understand why people think Europe embraces diversity. They embrace it so much that there are literally nations smaller than US states with unique cultures and languages that split off from larger ones because they DIDN’T want diversity, and still don’t want it and are proud of their heritage, language, and culture. Europeans are much less accepting of the consumerism, globalist, “diversity” mindset that is causing the problems of America today.

  20. Keeps quiet on abortion travel laws and violent airline travellers should be allowed to fly again. Kudos

  21. I have a feeling the Supreme Court would get involved in such a waiver of rights. Since most transport in North America is via air service (versus train in Europe), one could claim discrimination in transport. Especially, since a significant amount of the transportation infrastructure is Federally financed and or currently administered (ie: air traffic control, FAA, etc). Also, all the Billion$ airlines received during 9/11 & COVID makes them wards of the government and less of an independent business. Before airlines, it would be like saying all with criminal records could not ride on trains.
    You might get away with a No Fly List per airline, but a band on all air transport could easily be construed as denial of civil rights or access to Federal government programs as a US citizen. Congress, the Executive, and the Supreme Court have spent considerable effort in the the last 60 yrs to eliminate various types of discrimination.
    Even a conservative Supreme Court would frown on such a list.

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