ATLANTA - Delta Air Lines has put more than 1,600 people on its "no fly" list in the wake of passengers and staff being harassed on flights amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
In an internal memo obtained and reviewed by FOX Television Stations, the company said it made its decision in an effort to keep crewmembers and customers safe.
"At Delta, we now have more than 1,600 people on our ‘no fly’ list, and we’ve submitted more than 600 banned names to the FAA in 2021 as part of their Special Emphasis Enforcement Program," Delta told all flight attendants Wednesday. "We’ve also asked other airlines to share their ‘no fly’ list to further protect airline employees across the industry – something we know is top of mind for you as well. A list of banned customers doesn’t work as well if that customer can fly with another airline."
Reasons for individuals facing a ban from the airline include harassment of staff and not complying with Delta's mask requirements.
Airlines have full discretion to ban passengers who violate their policies. The company’s internal no-fly list is different than the federal no-fly list, which is part of the U.S. government’s Terrorist Screening Database and prohibits anyone who "may pose a threat to civil aviation or national security" from boarding a commercial aircraft.
Generally, in order to be placed on the federal list, the government must have information that the person presents "a threat of committing terrorism" to the aircraft or the U.S. homeland or U.S. facilities.
The FAA said this week that airlines have reported 4,385 events involving rowdy passengers this year, with 73% of them involving passengers who refuse to wear face masks, which are required on flights by federal rule.
Earlier this year, the agency proposed civil penalties ranging from $7,500 to $15,500 against four airline passengers who allegedly interfered with flight attendants’ ability to do their jobs, despite being instructed to adhere to cabin policies and various other federal regulations.
At a congressional hearing Thursday, the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., called for more criminal prosecutions of unruly passengers. He also said airports should stop concessioners from selling alcohol to go.
"Get a great big to-go cup with four shots in it and take it on the airplane — that needs to end," he said.
Criminal prosecutions are rare, and usually left up to local authorities. The Justice Department said it filed charges in federal court for 16 defendants in a recent 10-month period, according to travel publication Skift.
Friday, Delta is expected to participate in a hearing by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure titled, "Disruption in the Skies: The Surge in Air Rage and its Effects on Workers, Airlines, and Airports."
"We are grateful for the crews that have leveraged their training, and our safety processes and systems, in these difficult situations and want all of you to feel empowered to do the same. Thank you all for what you continue to do in spite of these challenging circumstances," the Delta employee memo said.
Amid the ongoing pandemic, Delta continues to require all customers to confirm at check-in that they and any person in their itinerary do not have symptoms of, have not knowingly been exposed to, and have not been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 10 days, and that they will wear a face mask throughout their travel, even if they have been vaccinated.
Airlines reported about six incidents of disruptive passengers for every 10,000 flights last week, the FAA said. That is about the same as late June but down about half from February and March. It is more than twice as high as the rate of 2.45 incidents per 10,000 flights during the last three months of 2020.
FAA figures show that the spike began in late January, including several flights that were disrupted by people flying to a rally in Washington for then-President Donald Trump.
This story was reported from Los Angeles. The Associated Press contributed.