After an incident on a recent United Airlines flight, the U.S. Department of Transportation is proposing a new rule that could make it easier for the government to have passengers who are behaving badly on flights arrested by law enforcement. The current rule requires that law enforcement agencies wait until after passengers are removed from the plane to start an investigation into potential crimes. However, the proposal would allow the government to start an investigation immediately, before the flight has landed.

Airlines are trying to prevent certain passengers from flying. A day before the first flight of 2015, the head of the Federal Aviation Administration sent a letter to the heads of all the major airlines, urging them to hand over names of “incorrigible flyers” who would be barred from flying for the first time. Some of these “incorrigibles” include those who cannot pay for their ticket, those who have been drunk on a plane, those who were disruptive on a flight, or those who were hostile towards the crew. But some do it for other reasons.

Airlines ask government to lock up noisy passengers

Gary Leff 21. June 2021

American Airlines, represented by its advocacy organization Airlines For America, has joined major airline unions in calling on the Department of Justice to prosecute passengers who cause in-flight disruptions.

The FAA has already proposed record penalties for passengers guilty of misconduct, but this has not helped to intimidate passengers. And while less reported, most of these fines are not actually paid as advertised. The fine must be collected administratively, which is not always the case. And in cases where this happens, the deal may be settled for a lower amount that we will never know.

Although the FAA has taken more than 400 enforcement actions in five months, more than six times as many as before the pandemic, only 57 civil actions to recover fines have been filed. Most of these will not result in the actual payment of the proposed fine.

Now the airlines and the unions are demanding criminal penalties that could reach up to 20 years in prison.

The letter from Airlines for America, which represents American Airlines (AAL.O), Delta Air Lines (DAL.N), United Airlines (UAL.O), Southwest Airlines (LUV.N) and others, as well as key unions, states that the incidents pose a safety risk to our passengers and employees, and we respectfully request that the Department of Justice commit to a full and public prosecution of the in-flight violence.

Notably, 2,300 of the 3,000 reports of inappropriate behavior the FAA received this year were mask-related. Isn’t it amazing that the airlines and the unions don’t realize that three-quarters of the incidents can be eliminated by lifting the mask mandate – which is meaningless anyway?

The mask requirement was extended just days before the CDC announced that vaccinated people would no longer have to wear masks in most places (e.g., crowded bars and restaurants). Cockpits of airplanes are as safe a place for members of the community as this one.

Now that any American adult who wants the vaccine can get it, there is no reason to mandate it.

  • MRNA-based vaccines are incredibly effective in protecting people from infection, disease and adverse events. Most people who have been vaccinated have nothing to worry about.
  • Those who have not been vaccinated make that decision themselves and should not impose it on others. Even if there is no warrant, passengers may wear masks.

There is a very limited number of people for whom vaccines may be contraindicated or less effective. However, the argument for the warrant is not to protect these people so they can fly in peace.

Children may not yet be vaccinated, but either way, children have a statistically lower risk than older Americans who have been vaccinated. For young children, Covid-19 is less risky than many things we took as background knowledge before the pandemic. And most data suggests they are also less likely to spread the virus. (Mandating masks for two-year-olds was always stupid, Delta’s policy of releasing young children made much more sense before it was banned.)

The increasing conflicts we saw on the planes were predictable. In fact, I predicted it. Abuse should be punished accordingly, but asking the government to harass your customers is a more fundamental problem. And we can eliminate much of the conflict simply by following the science.

Lake View from the Wing