Flight attendants are fed up with unruly passengers, and we don’t blame them

Rude, abusive behavior by airline passengers began to soar when the pandemic hit. Maybe it’s time for tougher penalties.

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Corliss King and Members of the Transport Workers Union hand out cards to travelers to raise awareness of assaults of airline employees at Midway International Airport,

Members of the Transport Workers Union hand out cards at Midway International Airport to raise awareness of assaults of airline employees.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

The holiday travel season is fast approaching, and we have one thing to say to unruly passengers who continue to make life miserable for flight attendants:

Cut it out, for heaven’s sake.

Last week, a small group of flight attendants held a press conference at Midway Airport to call attention to the ongoing problem of passengers who harass, curse out and sometimes even physically attack flight crews.

Rude and obnoxious in-flight behavior has been a problem since the pandemic began, so the Transport Workers Union, which represents flight attendants, is pressing its “Assault Won’t Fly” campaign for federal legislation to increase the penalties for abusive passengers.



“We have had flight attendants who have been hit, who have been grabbed to the point of bruising, some who’ve been followed off the aircraft and some who’ve been spirited away through the terminal because of threats,” said flight attendant Corliss King. “It needs to stop.”

No doubt. When adult passengers start to behave like toddlers, it’s not just annoying and potentially dangerous. It interferes with the duties of crew members, which is a violation of federal law, as the Federal Aviation Administration has pointed out.

The FAA rightly took a zero tolerance policy when unruly passenger reports began to soar after COVID-19 hit and angry fliers began lashing out at flight attendants for enforcing the federal mandate to wear a mask during flights and in airports. The FAA said unruly passengers would no longer receive a warning, but would instead be subject to immediate fines and, if warranted, prosecution.

There’s no longer a mask mandate for air travel, but if unruly passengers are still a problem, it’s time for Congress to consider the Protection from Abusive Passengers Act, introduced in April.

Under the bill, passengers convicted of assaulting a flight crew member aboard an aircraft could be placed on a commercial no-fly list managed by the Transportation Security Administration. The bill would also permanently ban abusive passengers from participating in the TSA PreCheck or Customs’ Global Entry programs.

Congress must weigh input from the airline industry as well as the airline workers unions before imposing a draconian no-fly list or permanent ban. But bad behavior must have consequences.

Meanwhile, if you’re flying this holiday season, be on your best behavior.

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