No mask? No fly

Passengers putting others at risk on flights by going maskless should receive a spot on the federal no-fly list.

Opinion by Matthew Royer, Political News Editor

Passengers putting their fellow travelers at risk should be punished to the full extent of the law. (Graphic Illustration by Matthew Royer/The Valley Star)

Choosing not to wear a mask on a flight is not a choice of freedom, but rather a choice of lunacy that puts the health of others at risk. Instead of arrest or fine, a spot on the no-fly list is more fitting.

It is a simple request; keep a mask over your mouth and nose for the duration of your flight. If a passenger chooses not to comply, the result is a quick boot from the flight, either through an early landing or punishment as decided by the law. Although flight attendants remind everyone to ‘mask-up’ throughout a flight, some passengers have decided to take aggressive measures against their fellow travelers and flight staff. Incidents on airlines like Southwest and American have led to the assault of employees holding up the law on flights and legal actions against the aggressors. In one case, according to the Boston Globe, while the cause for the outburst is unknown, a JetBlue passenger attempted to enter the cockpit after choking a flight attendant.

While the government will hold these passengers to the full extent of the law, including a fine upwards of $27,500, events on flights similar to these cases are not rare. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, 3,710 mask-related incidents have been reported, with over 5,000 physical altercations reported in general. Late last month, according to CNN, Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg presented an option for sending violent passengers to the no-fly list.

“It is completely unacceptable to mistreat, abuse or even disrespect flight crews,” said Buttigieg. “We will continue to look at all options to make sure that flight crews and passengers are safe. There is absolutely no excuse for this kind of treatment of flight crews in the air or any of the essential workers - from bus drivers to aircrews who get people to where they need to be.”

While this could prevent unruly actions during flights, public health should still be of focus for the federal government and airlines. With the holiday months here and travel set to skyrocket, authorities should protect the health of those visiting their families, some for the first time in years.

The COVID-19 pandemic is not going anywhere. Earlier this year, the CDC published a report stating that the virus can infect passengers by just one or two unmasked individuals on their flight. With breakthrough cases of vaccinated individuals on the rise, the goal should be to bypass as many risks as possible.

The United States created the no-fly list to prevent individuals from entering, traveling within or leaving the country based on their risk to “civil aviation.” While TSA has used the list to a greater extent since 2001, usually in tandem with the federal terrorist watchlist, its original use still stands.

The federal government, Sec. Buttigieg and airlines across the country must put the safety of their passengers and employees first; enact the no-fly list for unruly passengers who refuse to do the right thing and ‘mask-up.’