Delta pushes airlines to share no-fly lists names

Delta Air Lines wants all air carriers to share no-fly lists with the FAA. Unruly passengers have become a problem for airlines during the pandemic. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Delta Air Lines wants all air carriers to share no-fly lists with the FAA. Unruly passengers have become a problem for airlines during the pandemic. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Delta Air Lines shared with the Federal Aviation Administration the names of more than 600 passengers it has banned for unruly behavior, and asked other airlines to also share their no-fly lists.

“A list of banned customers doesn’t work as well if that customer can fly with another airline,” Atlanta-based Delta wrote in a memo in advance of a Congressional hearing this week on air rage. The airline said sharing of no-fly lists would “further protect airline employees across the industry.”

Such a practice could increase the ramifications of bad behavior on planes. Currently, a passenger cited for refusing to wear a mask or other unruly behavior might be banned from that airline but could fly any other airline. A broader no-fly list could more significantly limit travel for unruly passengers, but carriers sharing banned travelers lists could raise privacy or antitrust issues.

The FAA did not say if it could implement such a policy, but said it is meeting with airports, airlines, unions and others to discuss additional steps to reduce unruly passenger incidents.

Airlines’ no-fly lists of unruly passengers are different from the federal terrorist watch list, in that they are company bans of customers rather than a broad government no-fly list.

So far, Delta has put more than 1,600 people on its no-fly list, but shared the names of a smaller group of 600 as part of the FAA’s Special Emphasis Enforcement Program that can levy civil penalties on passengers who “assault, threaten, intimidate, or interfere with a crewmember” performing duties, in violation of federal law.

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines, the second-largest carrier in Atlanta, said it does not publicly disclose the details of its restricted fly list, but that it is working with its unions, other airlines and the FAA to brainstorm ways to further prevent unruly situations and it is “sharing best practices with other airlines.”

The number of unruly passenger incidents reported to the federal government has increased during the pandemic, and 3,199 of the 4,385 unruly passenger reports so far this year are related to mask requirements. Airlines began requiring masks last May, and President Joe Biden signed an order in January for a federal mask mandate on airplanes, in airports and for other forms of transportation.

The FAA said this week that the rate of unruly passenger incidents dropped sharply after it launched a zero-tolerance policy earlier this year but said the rate “remains too high.”

While reports of passengers punching flight attendants or trying to break into cockpits are alarming, such incidents are still rare. The FAA said there are about six unruly passenger incidents for every 10,000 flights — down 50% from early 2021, but twice as high as late 2020.