A bill in Congress that would create a national “no-fly” list for disruptive airline passengers is being opposed by U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis.
Lummis has been outspoken in her opposition to the “Protection From Abusive Passengers Act,” introduced Wednesday, which she sees inviting overreach by the federal government
“TSA no-fly lists have been historically restricted to suspected terrorists because such individuals are a threat to every airline and every traveler,” Lummis said.
“Expanding the use of no-fly lists to include people who are frustrated about mask mandates would tacitly equate ordinary flyers to violent extremists,” she said.
The act is sponsored by Lummis colleague Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), and supporters say it is part of an effort to reduce the rise of violent confrontations in airplanes.
He said the legislation would make people who have been convicted of assaulting crew members eligible to be placed on a ‘no-fly’ list maintained by the Transportation Security Administration.
“We’re here today to stand up for the 99.99999 percent of travelers who’ve had enough of bad behavior,” Sen. Reed said. “There should be zero tolerance for violence aboard an airplane. This bill will help reduce incidents of in-flight violence and hold unruly passengers accountable if they break the law.”
There were nearly 6,000 unruly passenger incidents on airplanes reported in 2021. Of those, 1,105 were labeled as “serious,” which is three times the previous high since the agency began collecting the data in 1995.
In a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, Lummis said the increase in unruly behavior stems primarily from individuals opposing the federal mask mandate.
“Creating a federal ‘no-fly’ list for unruly passengers who are skeptical of this mandate would seemingly equate them to terrorists who seek to actively take the lives of Americans and perpetrate attacks on the homeland,” she wrote.
But Sara Nelson, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants, said the legislation is necessary because a violent passenger can jump from one airline to another after an incident.
“Right now, a passenger can be fined or convicted, and may be banned on an individual airline – but that does not prevent this violent offender from flying another airline,” Nelson said. “This bill would change that. It’s really just a handful of bad actors who need to be grounded and face consequences for their violent actions.”
Many airlines support the measure including American Airlines, Delta Airlines, and Southwest Airlines. Also behind the bill is the Airline Pilots Association, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, and the Transport Workers Union of America.