No-Fly List, Self Defense Pitched to Deal With Unruly Passengers

Mandatory self-defense training for airline flight crews, a no-fly list for offenders, and expanded FBI jurisdiction are needed as passenger unruliness is on the rise, industry representatives say.

More needs to be done to address attacks on flight crews that have increasingly plagued airlines during the coronavirus pandemic, lawmakers and representatives for air transportation workers said during a Homeland Security subcommittee hearing Tuesday. There have been more than 5,000 unruly passenger reports this year, Federal Aviation Administration data show.

“It is well past time for crew member self-defense training and to make it mandatory and included in initial and recurrent flight attendant paid airline training,” Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, told lawmakers.

The Transportation Security Administration said earlier this year that voluntary self-defense classes for flight attendants and pilots had resumed after a pause because of Covid-19 restrictions.

Flight attendants have to find times on their days off to attend and no airlines offer paid duty time to attend the training, Nelson said.

“Sadly, this training feels more and more essential,” Transportation and Maritime Security Subcommittee Chair Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) said.

Nelson also urged lawmakers to pass legislation that expands FBI jurisdiction to include the jet bridge to ensure enforcement against federal crimes for violence that occur when the airplane door is open.

Unruly Airline Passengers Rarely Face U.S. Criminal Prosecution

Multiple witnesses called for a centralized list of those who have attacked flight crew members, an idea floated by lawmakers such as House Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.).

Absent a “no-fly list,” unruly passengers will continue to take flights and there will be repeat offenders,said John Samuelsen, international president of the Transport Workers Union of America.

“It is an absolute must that this list be established and it be done in a fair way where due process is protected,” Samuelson said.

Watson Coleman and Homeland Security Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) recently wrote to the TSA asking for more aggressive civil penalties against violent passengers. Unruly passengers have rarely face criminal prosecution. The agency has now assessed $85,990 in fines against 190 individuals, Watson Coleman said.

“While this is an improvement,” Watson Coleman said, the consequences of assaulting workers “should be made explicitly clear and violators must be held accountable without exception,” she said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lillianna Byington in Washington at lbyington@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Robin Meszoly at rmeszoly@bgov.com; Fawn Johnson at fjohnson@bloombergindustry.com

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