Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Sunday that a federal no-fly list for violent airplane passengers “should be on the table” after an American Airlines flight attendant was hospitalized with several broken bones in her face following an attack from a passenger last week.
The Federal Aviation Administration reported more than 4,600 incidents of unruly passengers so far this year, as flight crews have had to handle hostile passengers at unprecedented rates amid a travel rebound to pre-pandemic levels.
“It is completely unacceptable to mistreat, abuse or even disrespect flight crews,” Buttigieg told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union,” adding, “We will continue to look at all options to make sure that flight crews and passengers are safe.”
“There is absolutely no excuse for this kind of treatment of flight crews in the air or any of the essential workers – from bus drivers to air crews who get people to where they need to be,” he said.
The FAA announced earlier this year a new “zero tolerance” policy after seeing a spike in passengers disrupting flights with threatening or violent behavior, and so far has proposed more than $1 million in fines, CNN has previously reported. Enforcing mask mandates and dealing with drunk passengers are ranked among the top causes for such confrontations.
Last month, President Joe Biden blasted travelers who harass flight attendants because they don’t want to wear a face mask and announced the doubling of fines for those who don’t comply with the US federal transportation mask mandate.
“If you break the rules, be prepared to pay,” Biden said, speaking from the White House. “And by the way, show some respect. The anger you see on television toward flight attendants and others doing their job is wrong. It’s ugly.”
The civil penalties now range from $500 to $3,000, according to the Department of Homeland Security. The previous range was $250 to $1,500, and the highest fines of $1,000 to $3,000 are meant for repeat offenders of the mandate, the department said.
There is currently an FBI-managed federal no-fly list, which is designed to prevent known and suspected terrorists from getting airline tickets and boarding flights.
During the pandemic, airlines have agreed to ban passengers from future flights for refusing to wear masks, but the airlines are not sharing information with each other about the passengers they have banned. Hundreds of passengers are currently on those lists.