Federal Flight Ban Should Be Considered for Air Rage Passengers Says Pete Buttigieg

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has said that blacklisting violent airplane passengers should be considered.

Buttigieg was asked on CNN for his take on the reported attack of an American Airlines attendant during a flight from New York City to Orange County, California.

The passenger punched the flight crew member who had been moving through the first-class cabin, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants said.

The plane was diverted to Denver and the passenger was arrested. The airline's chief executive Doug Parker described last Wednesday's attack as "one of the worst displays of unruly behavior we've ever witnessed."

Within the context of a spike of incidents involving unruly passengers, Buttigieg was asked on State of the Union if there should be a federal no-fly list. "I think that should be on the table," he replied.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg
Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg outside of the Department of Transportation October 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. He said that a federal no-fly list should be "on the table" for unruly passengers. Drew Angerer/Getty

"It is completely unacceptable to mistreat, abuse, or even disrespect flight crews," he said, describing them as being "on the front lines of the pandemic from day one."

"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 aircrews who get people to where they need to be," Buttigieg added.

Buttigieg said there were "some really harsh penalties and fines being proposed" for violence on board. "We will continue to look at all options to make sure the flight crews and passengers are safe."

Newsweek has contacted the U.S. Department of Transportation and the FAA for comment.

Interfering with the duties of a crew member of a plane violates federal law. As part of the Federal Aviation Authority's (FAA) 2018 Reauthorization Bill, fines of up to $37,000 can be proposed per violation for unruly passenger cases. One incident can result in multiple violations.

FAA figures this week showed there were 4,941 reports of unruly passengers this year to October 26. Of those, 3,580 were mask-related incidents and the FAA has launched 923 investigations and 216 enforcement cases.

United Airlines banned over 1,000 passengers during the coronavirus pandemic due to issues related to mask mandates and unruly behavior.

On Friday, a Delta Airlines passenger was arrested following a fight with a man seated behind him over an item placed in the pocket of his seatback.

Curtis Maurice Clayton, 30, was detained before the plane was due to take off from Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

In September, Christian Segura, 33, was arrested after opening a door on a flight that had landed and jumping onto the plane's wing before it reached the Miami terminal.