Travel

New legislation hopes to combat unruly passengers on flights

Congress is reintroducing a bill that would develop a list of unruly passengers and ban them from commercial flights.

Inside of airplane cabin.
Sue Ogrocki / AP
SMS

At the urging of flight attendant unions, several members of Congress have reintroduced the Protection from Abusive Passengers Act. The bill would require the Transportation Security Administration to develop a list of passengers who have been unruly on flights and ban them from commercial flights in the future as long as they remain on such a list. 

It would also permanently ban those passengers from participating in TSA PreCheck and other similar services. 

The bill was introduced by Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Colo, and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn.

The legislation follows a huge spike in unruly passengers in 2021 and 2022.

Airlines cut service to small airports; Congress looks for solution
Airlines cut service to small airports; Congress looks for solution

Airlines cut service to small airports; Congress looks for solution

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"Flight attendants have dealt with disruptive passengers for decades, but the last three years have reached new heights. Flight Attendants face verbal and physical assault and unprecedented levels during the pandemic. You've all seen the headlines. Unfortunately, one of them was a flight I worked," said Cher Taylor, a Frontier Airlines flight attendant.

Taylor said a passenger on board a 2021 flight became abusive toward her and other passengers because a traveler did not retrieve their bags quickly. She said that the passenger was allowed to walk off the plane without any consequences. 

"Strong penalties are needed to curb violent and unacceptable behavior. Bad behavior should not fly, and we urge Congress to pass this bill," she said. 

From 2007 through 2020, the number of unruly passenger incidents under investigation ranged from 91 to 187, according to Federal Aviation Administration data. In 2021, that number spiked to 1,099. It dropped slightly in 2022 to 831.

Fitzpatrick said he is confident the bill can get bipartisan support. 

"When people sign up to work for an airline to help us travel safely, they're not certified mental health experts, are not police officers or federal agents, they have a very different job," he said. "And yet we're asking them to do things that they're not supposed to be doing and should never be doing."