Dear FAA DOT, TSA, DHS And DOJ . . .

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It’s out of hand!  Rarely does a day go by without a report of a problem on an airplane.  Principally driven by a combination of the mask mandate and alcohol, flight attendants are, as the first line of defense, being subjected to physical, verbal, and psychological abuse.  Other passengers find themselves either stepping up to assist or being asked to help subdue disruptive passengers, and the system is being subjected to delay.

The FAA’s response is a new policy of “zero tolerance.”  The FAA has been proposing monetary penalties against the offending passengers, without identifying them, and individual airlines are putting passengers on a “no fly” list.  Where a physical assault is involved, a criminal prosecution may also take place.

The bottom line is that, despite these efforts, we still read about way too many alarming incidents on aircraft.  Flight crews are being trained in “self-defense” and the safety of the entire system is being compromised.

Plane-ly Spoken calls upon the FAA, DOT, TSA, DHS and DOJ to immediately implement the following steps:

  1. Publish the Names of Disruptive Passengers!

When a monetary penalty is proposed against a disruptive passenger, identify the passenger by name in the FAA press release.  The FAA has not, to date, done so.  However, the FAA already does this when they propose a civil penalty against a company for a violation of the Federal Aviation Regulations.  They do it as a deterrent to the rest of the industry and consider it an important part of their enforcement process.

Why should it be any different with a disruptive passenger?  Hold those passengers up to public pressure and ridicule!

  1. FAA Should Not Settle the Monetary Penalties for Reduced Amounts!

Enforce 100% of the penalties!  Don’t settle and don’t take pennies on the dollar!

  1. Criminally Prosecute Disruptive Passengers!

The Department of Justice should prosecute all disruptive passengers.  Interfering with the flight crew in the performance of their duties is a criminal offense. 49 USC §46504.  Prosecute them and do so publicly!

  1. Recover the Costs of Delayed Flights!

Disruptive passengers frequently cause costly flight delays or diversions.  Any airline which incurs such expenses should be entitled to recover them from the disruptive passengers.

  1. The Federal Government Should Create an Industry-Wide Disruptive Passenger “No Fly” List!

Airlines should not need to create their own “no fly” lists.  The TSA and DOT should create an aviation no fly list on which all disruptive passengers should be placed.  These lists should be used as part of the screening process at the reservation and/or the TSA stage of air travel.  Moreover, these “no fly” lists should be permanent, i.e., once your name is on it, you should never be permitted to fly on a US commercial airline again!

So far, the measures taken by FAA are well-directed, but don’t really seem to be having the intended effect.  Flight crews, and especially flight attendants, are the first line of defense and truly “in the line of fire.”  The answer, however, is not to teach them self-defense and leave them to deal with the problem. By definition, if they have to resort to such measures, the problem is already out of control.

The key to resolving this problem is aggressive, highly visible enforcement action with no compromise.  The message has to be that, unless you want to be held up to public ridicule, pay big monetary penalties, go to jail and/or never fly again, recognize that airline travel is a privilege and not a right.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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