Airlines have suspended flying privileges for a growing number of passengers since the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol amid reports of fliers disobeying mask-wearing mandates and engaging in raucous behavior onboard flights to and from Washington, D.C.
Alaska Airlines has banned 14 passengers from flying with the airline after they were “non-mask-compliant, rowdy, argumentative and harassed our crew members” on a January 7 flight from Washington Dulles International to Seattle, the airline said in a statement.
The carrier has a strict mask enforcement policy in place that dictates that all passengers age two and older wear a mask or face covering over their nose and mouth—with no exceptions. For those unwilling or unable to wear a mask for any reason, “Alaska will be unable to provide them with travel,” the policy states.
The airline told AFAR that it has suspended travel for 32 people between January 7 and 10, 2021, and has temporarily revoked the flying privileges of 302 passengers since its strict mask policy went into effect in August.
United Airlines has banned 60 people from flying in the last week alone, the carrier told AFAR.
“Our first priority must be the safety and security of our passengers and crew,” stated a United spokesperson. “We have increased staffing at Washington-area airports and are in close contact with appropriate law enforcement agencies to continuously monitor the situation in real time.”
United said it will continue to enforce its strict mask policy, “as we have done for every flight since the spring of last year.”
Delta Air Lines told USA Today that the carrier removed two “unruly” passengers flying from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport to Minneapolis on January 8.
The suspensions come after several reports of verbal clashes and unrest on flights to and from the Washington, D.C. area in the leadup to and aftermath of the January 6 political violence at the Capitol.
On January 5, independent journalist Maranie Staab tweeted a video of verbal clashes between Trump supporters and other passengers on an American Airlines flight from Dallas to Washington, D.C.
Three days later, a passenger on an American Airlines flight from Washington, D.C. to Phoenix, Arizona, tweeted that the aircraft’s pilot said he would “put the plane down in the middle of Kansas and dump people off” after passengers had been chanting “fight for Trump,” according to the tweet.
.@AmericanAir threatening to “dump people off” in the middle of Kansas. Unreal. pic.twitter.com/Tmmek6Yu5h — Doctor President-elect Amanda Head (@AmandaHead) January 8, 2021
In light of such incidents, Sara Nelson, head of the union that represents nearly 50,000 flight attendants at 17 airlines, said it was unsafe for those who participated in the insurrection at the Capitol to be allowed back onto airplanes.
“Acts against our democracy, our government . . . must disqualify these individuals from the freedom of flight,” Nelson said in a statement released by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) on January 6.
A call to add those involved in Capitol attack to the government’s No Fly List
Representative Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, on January 7 released a statement urging the TSA and the FBI to add the perpetrators of what he described as the “domestic terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol” to the Department of Homeland Security’s No Fly List to “keep them off planes.”
The No Fly List is part of the government’s terrorist watch list, a database of known or suspected terrorists. Those on the list can be denied boarding, entry, or exit from the United States, and they undergo additional screening at the airport.
“This should include all individuals identified as having entered the Capitol building—an intrusion which threatened the safety of members of Congress and staff and served as an attack on our nation,” Thompson stated.
Steve Dickson, administrator with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), said on Friday that the FAA “will pursue strong enforcement action against anyone who endangers the safety of flight, with penalties ranging from monetary fines to jail time.”
That sentiment was reinforced by the FAA in a tweet over the weekend reminding travelers that “federal law prohibits you from physically assaulting or threatening to physically assault the crew, and anyone else, on an aircraft. You could be subject to fines of up to $35K and imprisonment for such conduct.”