Senate considers bill to ban unruly passengers from flying

Photo (c) SEAN GLADWELL - Getty Images

A flight attendants union believes the move is necessary

A bill designed to protect airline crew members, security screening personnel, and passengers by banning abusive travelers from commercial aircraft flights has been introduced in the U.S. Senate.

Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), the lawmaker behind the effort, said his Protection from Abusive Passengers Act is directed at “eliminating the rash of violence and abuse” travelers have been facing for more than two years.

Despite the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) trying everything from fines to turning unruly passengers over to the FBI for criminal review, some flyers continue to disrupt flights with their behaviors. The FAA’s latest report on the situation shows that there have been 1,081 reports of unruly passengers so far this year.

"The goal of our bill is to send a clear signal that individuals who engage in serious abusive or violent behavior on an aircraft or at an airport security checkpoint will be banned from flying,” Reed said in introducing the bill. “Clearly, the existing regime of civil and criminal penalties has not been enough to deter the upsurge in cases. We need to send a signal that such types of behavior will not be tolerated.”

The bill is also being introduced in the House by Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Eric Swalwell (D-CA).

Flight attendants applaud proposal

If the legislation makes it to President Biden’s desk and gets his signature, it should give airline officials enough muscle to affect real change. If passed, the legislation would require the TSA to create and manage a program that would ban certain disruptive or violent passengers from ever stepping foot on a commercial airline. The bill would also permanently ban abusive passengers from participating in the TSA PreCheck or Customs' Global Entry programs.

Flight attendants – who have borne the brunt of much of the abuse – are cheerleading Reed’s efforts wholeheartedly. 

"It’s about time we take real action to keep Flight Attendants and passengers safe in the air. Senator Reed and Representative Swalwell are heroes for introducing the legislation to protect Flight Attendants and Passenger Service Agents,” said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, a group that represents nearly 50,000 Flight Attendants at 17 airlines. 

“Violence and disruptions put everyone at risk and disrupts the safety of flight," Nelson added. "That is never acceptable. We've been punched, kicked, spit on, and sexually assaulted. We urge members of Congress to co-sign this bill and pass this legislation without delay. Hold violent passengers accountable, protect aviation workers and improve aviation safety.”

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