Shouting matches and expletives creating turmoil at 30,000 feet pose a serious danger to airline crews and passengers. While there have always been a few rude passengers – usually the ones drinking a few too many mini-bottles of vodka or such – the problem seems to be growing.

The Federal Aviation Administration says it will go after passengers who cause problems in airports and on planes – including pursuing fines and imprisonment. Smiley N. Pool/Dallas Morning News via TNS

The pervasive rudeness permeating our public discourse at all levels now is taking to the skies. It’s not only rudeness over politics – some selfish passengers don’t want to comply with mask requirements, others fight over reclining seats or the size of carry-on luggage. Passengers allegedly assaulted Spirit agents in Detroit in January over a baggage dispute.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian is proposing a solution to passengers who create in-flight troubles – a lifetime ban from flying, at least on Delta.

“Those who refuse to display basic civility to our people or their fellow travelers are not welcome on Delta,” Bastian said.

It’s an idea worth considering and may be a reasonable way to protect crews and passengers. The last thing airline travelers need is to have to listen to and see rowdy behavior when they’re trying to read or sleep or do some work.

American Airlines also reported politically motivated problems on recent flights.


Bastian’s proposal isn’t the harshest remedy available. The Federal Aviation Administration says it will go after passengers who cause problems in airports and on planes – including pursuing fines and imprisonment.

About 800 passengers already have been banned for failure to comply with mask requirements – those bans last only until the mask mandate on the airline ends, for now.

Unruly passengers have caused issues before, but the problem has accelerated since the November presidential election and the Capitol riot.

The problem was already obvious, though. It was back in August when a Black woman had to put up with a series of rude and uncalled-for comments from the woman sitting next to her on a Delta flight. In April, a Spirit flight to Detroit was diverted because of a fight on board.

Implementing the ban and setting the standards for discipline of passengers could be tough and likely will result in lawsuits. One trouble is the question of who decides what constitutes rudeness or incivility. It’s abundantly clear in cases that involve flights that must be delayed or diverted, or when offensive words are directed at another passenger. Delta should spell out a list of behaviors that could lead to a ban for rude behavior.

Delta is a private company and has some leeway to impose rules on travelers – as long as they are nondiscriminatory.

Troublemakers on a flight probably are the same sort of neighborhood bullies who demand attention for themselves and must get their way.

Give those folks food for thought when they find they can’t book a flight at the nearest airport and need to make other travel arrangements.

Bastian should follow through on his proposal, and other airlines should consider similar bans. Doing so might prove an actual deterrent to the yahoos who think they have the right to behave badly and turn a simple flight into an ordeal for fellow passengers and the flight crew.

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