Flight attendants and other airline workers at LAX were handing out fliers advocating for stricter regulation of unruly flight passengers Tuesday. This “Assault Won’t Fly” campaign was started by members of the Transport Workers Union of America in June 2022 to push for harsher penalties like public prosecution and an addition to a no-fly list for disruptive passengers.
Federal law already prohibits passengers from obstructing a flight attendant’s duties with potential penalties including fines up to $37,000 along with other criminal charges. However, the number of assaults and other disruptive behaviors by passengers on flights reached a record high in 2021 with 5,981 unruly-passenger incidents reported by the Federal Aviation Administration, many of which related to mask regulations related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
That number decreased to 2,455 incidents in 2022, but remains significantly higher than the 889 seen in 2018. 628 incidents have been reported in 2023 as of May 7, according to FAA data.
A bill — Protection from Abusive Passengers Act — was reintroduced at the end of March to potentially help combat this problem. The act would prohibit violent passengers from flying in the United States after they are convicted of assaulting an aviation worker, as well as banning those passengers from programs like TSA PreCheck and U.S. Customs’ Global Entry Program.
“Assaults on our airline workers are completely unacceptable, and both airlines and regulators need to act to put an end to this crisis, Transport Workers Union International President John Samuelsen said when the bill was introduced.
One of the goals of this Assault Don’t Fly campaign was to garner support for the legislation, which is being considered by both the U.S. House as H.R. 2394 and the U.S. Senate as S. 1058.
“We’d like this legislation to pass because it would give strict penalties to anyone who assaults an airline employee and also create a nationwide banned-passenger list,” flight attendant Thom McDaniel told ABC 7 News.
The legislation is also supported by other union groups, including the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA which represents 50,000 flight attendants, who put out a call for support for the bill last month.
“The proposed Act seeks to enhance penalties and serve as a strong deterrent to reduce disruptions to the national aviation system and ensure the safety of frontline aviation crews and passengers,” union representatives wrote in a release calling for support on April 20.
“Flight Attendants are calling on all individuals to contact their U.S. Representatives and Senators and urge them to co-sponsor the Protection from Abusive Passengers Act to hold violent passengers accountable, protect aviation workers, and improve aviation safety.”
Photo by hstiver