Unruly passengers are the scourge of air travel. Selfish acts ruin the experience for hundreds, often leading to diversions or delays which screw up plans, and can change the entire purpose of a trip, for some.

In recent months, amid rising air rage incidents, airlines were given more leeway to ban and fine passengers, and federal fines have apparently become quite a useful new bargaining tool for cabin crew members looking to shut down bad behavior. Incidents are declining, finally.

Airlines have separate lists for mask related bans, and other lists for violent, aggressive or lewd passengers, which are of a more permanent nature.

Now, airlines have a new idea for people who don’t follow the rules in time, which would see passengers potentially banned from not just one airline, but all airlines in a given region. It could bar many people from air travel entirely.

The New Airline Proposal To Stop Mask Abuse

Delta Airlines wants other airlines to share their “no fly” lists for mask policy incidents, so that the airlines can collectively keep non-mask compliant passengers from flying on all airlines participating in the data sharing.

“At Delta, we now have more than 1,600 people on our “no fly” list, and we’ve submitted more than 600 banned names to the FAA in 2021 as part of their Special Emphasis Enforcement Program.

We have also asked other airlines to share their “no fly” list to further protect airline employees across the industry. As we all know, a list of banned customers doesn’t work as well if that customer can fly with another airline.”

Delta Airlines

In many ways, it could be the jeopardy air travel needed to keep people from going insane on flights, but in many other ways, it could give far too much power to people who have been known to be plenty irrational at times, too — cabin crew.

From the JetBlue cabin crew member who opened the emergency door and effectively told everyone to “eff off”, before sliding down the the emergency slide; to the plentiful cabin crew members who’ve been so drunk, that they’ve passed out at their station or slurred cabin speeches, passengers aren’t the only badly behaved people in the sky.

Many of the loveliest people I’ve met in life have been members of airline cabin crew. I count many among my great friends. Yet, many of the most vindictive, angry and bitter people I’ve met in my travels have been cabin crew too.

As View From The Wing has documented in depth, many “incidents” have been over ridiculous things, like two year olds accused of not keeping their mask on, when eating meals?!

As a parent of a near two year old, I cannot imagine the frustration I’d feel, if my family were stranded in a far away part of the country, or world, because some uppity flight attendant wanted to stick it to my two year old daughter and put us on a universal ban list.

Anger And Mask Non-Compliance Isn’t Exclusive To Passengers

Particularly on legacy US airlines, where decades of contract slashes have left people feeling under valued and overworked, many airline staff hate their jobs. Putting these people in a position to unilaterally hand out bans, with little recourse for the passenger is a somewhat of an alarming proposal.

Much of the problem stems from an airline system with a lack of listening to passenger takes, however well intentioned the system may be. All a crew member needs to do is have one colleague back them up, and it’s job done. Fate sealed.

Cabin crew who are friends often bid the same flight routes, so it’s entirely possible for someone who didn’t witness an event to just back up a friend, because why not?

Airlines “Back” Their Employees

As an employee, you want to feel backed by your employer. You want to feel that your word and opinion matters, and airlines typically follow this honorable approach.

This system works well in an honorable world, but in a world where some cabin crew are vindictive people, sometimes even looking for a fight themselves, it puts a massive burden on passengers to “stay on their good side”.

I’d love to believe that any reasonable passenger who is warned about their mask and complies would not be at risk, but my life experience dictates otherwise.

I’ve been one too many American Airlines flights where a crew member says “are we going to have a problem today” to a passenger, over a mundane issue like how they’re stowing their bag away, or because they request extra ice with their drink.

To me, and yes, this is a personal take, that’s an awful lot of life fate for an awful lot of people in the hands of people, of whom most are wonderful and salt of the earth, but plenty are truly awful. Like any other workplace.

Heck, I’ve been attacked online by plenty of cabin crew members after saying they were sub-standard in flight reviews, so I can only imagine how much one would love to propose me to the “no fly” list, and have me off airlines entirely, though I would never be non-compliant with crew member instructions or give them a remote chance to.

Follow The Rules As They Exist

I’m a firm believer in the value of getting vaccinated and in following the rules as they exist, while they exist. I wear a high quality mask on board without issue, and try to be as respectful as possible by only briefly removing it to sip, rather than leaving it off for extended periods of time.

I can’t say the same for my daughter, who at circa 20 months is currently exempt from wearing a mask, but may really struggle to in just a few months time.

In no way — whatsoever — am I against punishing people who deserve to be punished for breaking the rules and ignoring any verbal warnings. But as a very frequent traveler I’ve just watched too many situations go from 0 to 100, where a cabin crew member is having a bad day, wants to power trip, and without verbal warning, situations escalate.

When crew members say they’re here for our safety, and not to serve us, deescalation would surely be the best way to do that, yet it’s not always the case.

Systems where one person is allowed to play judge, jury and executioner have not worked out well historically, yet this is pretty much exactly what’s being proposed. A better system surely exists.

I’m all for airlines being able to ban passengers, just like any other private business bailed out by massively the federal government so stock buybacks can resume, but at present passengers have little to no recourse, which only gives cabin crew more ability to decide our traveling fate, and now potentially, not just on their airline – but all.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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3 Comments

  1. Gilbert

    All valid concerns so there needs to be a review process for these bans. Also how many “John Smiths” will get misidentified in this process.

    BTW – I’ve been working in the travel industry my whole adult life and still do and I really can’t remember running into a vindictive FA. Maybe a few unpleasant ones here and there but we all read the news reports so I guess it’s possible.

  2. Agreed Gilbert. I have met many many some of the nicest and most patient people as FA’s.

    But…

    Have also, especially over last 18 months, seen some borderline ridiculous “power plays” by FA’s.

    There is NO WAY this should be permitted.

    Used to absolutely love traveling and really enjoyed it for work (thus a consistent reader of GSTP), but have really curtailed it (not out of fear, but sick of levels of service from airlines, hotels, etc….), not enjoyable…..

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