ATLANTA (LifeSiteNews) — Despite waning COVID-19 numbers and increasing evidence of the inefficacy of cloth masks, one major airline is doubling down on its mask enforcement, asking U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to create a national “no-fly list” to bar “unruly” passengers who refuse to wear masks from flying with any commercial airline.
Delta Air Lines formally asked the federal government to create a “no-fly list” of individuals who have been convicted of engaging in “unruly behavior” while on board flights in a letter addressed to Garland last week.
“This action will help prevent future incidents and serve as a strong symbol of the consequences of not complying with crew member instructions on commercial aircraft,” wrote Delta Air Lines CEO Edward Bastian, adding that his company “fully support[s] using the full force of the law in these cases.”
“Delta, along with our industry partners at Airlines for America, has been advocating since last year for heightened reporting, investigation and prosecution of those who interfere with on-board safety,” Bastian said.
— James Packard (@JamesSPackard) February 4, 2022
With rates of conflicts between passengers and airline employees allegedly spiking since the start of the pandemic and the advent of compulsory masking rules, which require passengers to wear masks for the duration of flights, the request for a national blacklist for noncompliant travelers appears to be specifically targeted at those who buck masking rules.
Fox News reported that the Bastian “claimed that the rate of incidents with unruly passengers on Delta flights has increased nearly 100% since before the pandemic started.”
In 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) received 5,981 reports of unruly passengers, of which 4,290 were related to mask-wearing offenses.
Meanwhile, the outlet noted that “Delta already put nearly 1,900 people on a private ‘no-fly’ list for refusing to comply with masking requirements, with 900 of those people submitted to the [Transportation Security Administration] for civil penalties.”
A national no-fly list would expand Delta’s private list to all commercial air carriers, blocking any passenger deemed “unruly” from boarding any future aircraft.
Existing federal “no-fly lists” have previously been used to block known or suspected terrorists, convicted criminals, and those carrying tuberculosis or measles, from boarding commercial flights. A similar list for passengers who simply refuse to comply with crew member instructions on matters like masking would be a first.
“The no-fly list Delta is suggesting would be the first coordinated effort among airlines to ban passengers for bad behavior,” AFAR Magazine .
Delta has drawn criticism for its request to levy the “full force of the law” against air travelers.
Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky weighed in on the controversy, suggesting that “[p]erhaps passengers, once also known as customers, should put Delta Air Lines on a ‘no-fly ‘ list.”
Perhaps passengers, once also known as customers, should put Delta Air Lines on a ‘no-fly ‘ list https://t.co/wPB0dygjR5
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) February 6, 2022
This isn’t the first time Delta has encouraged airlines collaborate to punish unruly passengers.
Late last year, the major carrier raised the alarm about the spike in contentious incidents, arguing that “[a] list of banned customers doesn’t work as well if that customer can fly with another airline,” asking “other airlines to share their ‘no-fly’ list to further protect airline employees across the industry.”
It’s unclear what response the U.S. government will make to Delta’s formal request for federal involvement.
In September, President Joe Biden announced a ratcheting up of punishment for people who refuse to comply with masking rules, directing the TSA to double fines for individuals who buck masking rules in airports and on commercial airplanes.
“If you break the rules, be prepared to pay,” Biden said.
Despite upping financial penalties for noncompliance with masking rules, however, the Biden administration has thus far rejected pressure to impose a nationwide COVID-19 vaccine mandate for air travelers, though left-wing media pundits and public health experts have called for such requirements.
Meanwhile, it’s unclear whether Delta Air Lines’ urgency is warranted. According to the FAA, rates of “unruly passenger” incidents have actually shown a steep decline from last year, falling 50% so far in 2022 compared with the same period in 2021, Fox Business reported.
In addition, while the TSA has not indicated a move to lift mask requirements on airplanes and airports any time soon, masking rules have been dropped in many states and locales as the pandemic wanes and evidence continues to emerge suggesting that cloth masks do little if anything to slow the spread of respiratory viruses.
Further, a national “no-fly list” for so-called “unruly” passengers could run afoul of Constitutional protections against government interference in interstate travel, a right explicitly named in the 14th Amendment.