Group of GOP lawmakers oppose unruly passenger no-fly list

A group of Republican lawmakers are facing a pushback from one of the nation’s top flight attendant unions for opposing a nationwide no-fly list for unruly passengers.

What do you want to know

  • Eight GOP senators have written to Attorney General Merrick Garland expressing concern over the creation of a nationwide no-fly list of unruly passengers
  • The senators expressed concerns about transparency and also said the list would unfairly target those who are skeptical of mask mandates.
  • The Flight Attendants Association released a strongly worded answer to the letter of the senators, calling it “political and political irresponsibility”
  • As of February 15, airlines had recorded 394 incidents of unruly passengers since the start of the year, 255 of which were related to face masks.

The idea was first proposed by Delta Airlines, whose CEO wrote a letter to the Justice Department in early February that would place passengers found guilty of disrupting a plane on a no-fly list. which would prevent them from traveling in the future on any commercial airline. .

Delta CEO Ed Bastian said the move would “help prevent future incidents and serve as a strong symbol of the consequences of not following crew member instructions on commercial aircraft,” according to a copy of the letter. provided to Spectrum News.

Delta already maintains an internal list of customers it won’t allow back on its planes, but hopes to create a national database to be shared among all private airlines in the United States. By early February, Delta’s no-fly list contained nearly 1,900 names and the airline had submitted 900 banned individuals to the TSA to pursue possible civil penalties.

The demand for a centralized no-fly list was quickly backed by the Association of Flight Attendants, a union that represents more than 50,000 flight attendants across 17 airlines.

“A no-fly list should be on the table because there must be very serious consequences for those who do so,” said AFA President Sara Nelson. told Yahoo Finance in an interview last week. “It’s a relatively small number of people, but they have created incredible harm, an incredible risk to the safety of everyone on board and, if nothing else, a major inconvenience to the rest of the passengers.”

This week, a group of eight GOP senators published a separate letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland saying while they “strongly condemn any violence against airline workers”, they also feel “strong opposition to the creation of such a list”.

Senses. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., Rick Scott, R-Fla., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Mike Lee, R-Utah, James Lankford, R-Okla., Kevin Cramer, RN.D., John Hoeven, RN.D., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, disputed the request, in part because it would target those who are skeptical of mask mandates.

“Creating a federal ‘no-fly’ list for unruly passengers who are skeptical of this warrant would apparently equate them with terrorists who actively seek to take the lives of Americans and carry out attacks on the homeland “, wrote in part the senators.

The federal mask mandate on flights has been in place for more than a year, but airline workers have nonetheless faced a steady stream of dangerous or disruptive behavior since the start of the pandemic — the vast majority of which stems from the refusal of passengers to wear a mask.

As of February 15, airlines had recorded 394 incidents of unruly passengers since the start of the year, 255 of which were related to face masks.

“The TSA was created in the wake of 9/11 to protect Americans from future horrific attacks, not to regulate human behavior on board flights,” the senators’ letter continues, adding, “The creation of this list by the DOJ would result in a severe restriction on the ability of citizens to fully exercise their constitutional right to engage in interstate transportation.

The senators also expressed concern about potential privacy issues surrounding the creation of a new no-fly list, pointing out that the no-fly list for suspected terrorists has generated a lot of controversy due to the lack of transparency and due process issues.

The Association of Flight Attendants released a strongly worded answer to the letter of the senators, doubling down on the need for a centralized list of passengers who would be banned from flying “for a period of time” after being convicted of a crime on the plane.

“We were punched, kicked, spat upon and sexually assaulted,” union president Sara Nelson wrote in part. “It puts everyone at risk and disrupts flight safety, which is never acceptable and every one of the senators who signed this letter knows full well what is at stake if we leave a gap in safety and security. This is an irresponsible and political policy that will put our economic security at risk along with our lives.

The group urged the Justice Department, Transportation Security Administration and Federal Aviation Administration to create “a plan with due process to keep dangerous flyers on the ground.”

The FAA confirmed to Spectrum News on Thursday that as of Feb. 16, it had referred 80 unruly passenger cases to the FBI for criminal review. The agency is aware of requests to create a centralized no-fly list and “welcomes information about additional steps we and our partners can take to end unruly behavior that puts everyone at risk.” “.

“We will continue to work with other federal agencies, airlines, airports, labor and law enforcement to continue the downward trend in unruly incidents,” the agency added.

The FAA has already taken a number of steps to address the spike in passenger recklessness on planes. FAA Administrator Steve Dickson announced a new zero-tolerance policy with unruly passengers last January: In previous years, the FAA would choose between a range of tactics – including warnings, civil penalties or advice – for unruly passengers.

Now the FAA is moving straight to legal action.

“Flying is the safest form of transportation and I signed this order to keep it that way,” Dickson said at the time.

The FAA in December also announced it would notify the TSA of passengers facing fines for “misbehaviour” on flights; the TSA may in turn choose to revoke the passenger’s TSA Pre-Check status, a privilege reserved for “low-risk travelers,” the agencies wrote in a statement.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told CNN last week that the Biden administration is “reviewing these policy recommendations,” while acknowledging the potential challenges of creating such a list.

“Obviously there are huge implications in terms of civil liberties, in terms of dealing with something like this. I mean, even when it came to terrorism, it wasn’t a simple thing to put in place,” he told CNN. of these things can be done lightly. But I think all of those things need to be looked at, at a time like this.

Spectrum News has contacted the Justice Department for comment.

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