Folks who make an already stressful flight their moment to throw a fit over some inane point about masks might end up on a federal no-fly list someday and that has eight republican senators pissed off.
This letter (which you can read in full here) is in response to another letter reported on last month where Delta CEO Ed Bastian asked Attorney General Merrick Garland to place passengers convicted of disrupting a flight to be added to a national no-fly list. While the rest of us who have been wearing masks for the last two years and are excited just to get to go anywhere applaud this idea, eight Republican senators are very concerned. It is very much the usual suspects, who say these freedom-loving babies shouldn’t be treated like terrorists. From the Washington Post:
“While we strongly condemn any violence towards airline workers, there is significant uncertainty around the efficacy of this mandate, as highlighted by the CEO of Southwest Airlines during a recent Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing,” the senators wrote. “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.”
The senators argued that the Transportation Security Administration “was created in the wake of 9/11 to protect Americans from future horrific attacks, not to regulate human behavior onboard flights.”
The eight Republicans signing the letter are Sens. Cynthia M. Lummis (Wyo.), Mike Lee (Utah), James Lankford (Okla.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Kevin Cramer (N.D.), Ted Cruz (Tex.), John Hoeven (N.D.) and Rick Scott (Fla.).
I do agree, actually. Unruly passengers shouldn’t be treated like terrorist. They should be treated like felons.
The important part of the Delta CEO’s request was that bit about adding names to the no-fly list resulting from convictions of disrupting flights. If you actually make it before a federal judge for what you did on a flight, it was bad. To be convicted of disrupting a flight under the Aircraft Piracy And Other Title 49 Aircraft Offenses means you are now a felon, and felons routinely have all sorts of rights removed. Passports can be denied, as can voting rights or even minimum wage requirements in some states. They usually can’t take advantage of housing or social assistance and even have their right to bear arms — our most sacred sacrament — stripped from them. Flying isn’t even a right promised by the Constitution. It is a privilege, which can and should be removed in the appropriate circumstances.
It’s not like this would apply to the Grandma who was kindly escorted off her flight to Boca Raton for the winter. While the Federal Aviation Administration doesn’t have criminal prosecutorial authority, it did hand out a record amount of fines to unruly travelers last year. Here are just some of the actions of the people Senators like Cruz and Lankford hope to protect:
- $45,000 against a passenger on a May 24, 2021, jetBlue Airways flight from New York, N.Y., to Orlando, Fla., for allegedly throwing objects, including his carry-on luggage, at other passengers; refusing to stay seated; lying on the floor in the aisle, refusing to get up, and then grabbing a flight attendant by the ankles and putting his head up her skirt. The passenger was placed in flexi-cuffs and the flight made an emergency landing in Richmond, Va.
- $42,000 against a passenger on a May 16, 2021, jetBlue Airways flight from Queens, N.Y., to San Francisco, Calif., for allegedly interfering with crewmembers after failing to comply with the facemask mandate; making non-consensual physical contact with another passenger; throwing a playing card at a passenger and threatening him with physical harm; making stabbing gestures towards certain passengers; and snorting what appeared to be cocaine from a plastic bag, which the cabin crew confiscated. The passenger became increasingly agitated and the crew equipped themselves with flex cuffs and ice mallets to ensure the safety of the flight if his behavior worsened. The flight diverted to Minneapolis, Minn., where law enforcement removed the passenger from the aircraft.
- $10,500 against a passenger on an April 29, 2021, Allegiant Airlines flight from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Covington, Ky., for his alleged interference with flight crewmembers after failure to comply with the facemask mandate and subsequently urinating on the lavatory floor, which leaked into the galley area.
Even with face masks being required by law on flights, all 34 people mentioned in this press release were guilty of at least one other act of egregious behavior, mostly tied to alcohol, before they were fined. They certainly all violated Aircraft Piracy And Other Title 49 Aircraft Offenses.
Airlines also routinely maintain their own no-fly lists and even made an effort to share list between airlines when meltdowns over pie hole-coverings first began to skyrocket. If they continue that practice a federal list might become a moot point. Only such lists will likely be kept private, with no chance to appeal errors or wrongful entires.
While it was a relatively rare for unruly behavior to even be reported to the FAA before COVID-19, the explosion in incidents involving masks led the Federal Aviation Administration to ask airlines to work more closely with law enforcement to make sure such cases are investigated and prosecuted.