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US mulls new no-fly list for ‘unruly’ passengers

Supporters of the bill said the blacklist would act as a “strong deterrent” against “air rage incidents”

Lawmakers in the House and Senate have proposed a new federal no-fly list for “abusive” or unruly passengers, introducing a bill that would prohibit those convicted of certain criminal offenses from boarding commercial flights.

The ‘Protection from Abusive Passengers Act’ was put forward with bipartisan support on Wednesday, with Reps. Eric Swalwell (D-California) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pennsylvania) introducing the bill in the House, while Senator Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island) did the same in the upper chamber. 

“Air rage incidents can pose real safety threats to everyone on board,” Reed said in a social media post, voicing hopes that the act would “improve air travel safety [and] hold unruly passengers accountable.”

If passed, the legislation would create a new federal blacklist for air passengers managed by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), an agency of the Department of Homeland Security which is deployed to airports across the country.

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The bill would impose bans on “any individual who engages in behavior that results in a civil penalty or conviction for assaulting, threatening, or intimidating a crew member or passenger on an aircraft flight,” or who takes any other action which interferes with security personnel.

While the same group of lawmakers proposed similar legislation last year, it failed to pass. In reintroducing the bill, they said banning people from flights would “serve as a strong deterrent” against violent or disruptive passengers.

The new list would be separate from another terrorism blacklist created in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and overseen by the FBI and DHS. That list has come under fire in the past after it was found to include young children, among them one 4-year-old boy

The proposed TSA-managed no-fly list has already faced criticism from civil rights organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), citing issues with the existing list.

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“If Congress wants to further reduce air-rage incidents on aircraft, it should look at forcing the airlines to make flying a less miserable experience,” ACLU spokesman Jay Stanley told the Associated Press.

Incidents involving unruly passengers saw a major spike in 2021, as air travel increased after pandemic restrictions were eased at many airports. The Federal Aviation Administration said it received 6,000 reports of problematic passengers that year, resulting in more than 1,100 investigations and $5 million in fines. While the number of incidents fell in 2022, dropping to just over 2,400, the penalties have ramped up significantly, with $8.4 million in fines last year despite fewer reports and investigations.

March 30, 2023 at 10:11AM

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