Airlines are planning to share ‘ban lists’ of troublesome flyers

Thousands of unruly airline passengers are discovering that actions have consequences, and often wide-reaching ones...

By David Flynn, September 28 2021
Airlines are planning to share ‘ban lists’ of troublesome flyers

Fed up with the behaviour of unruly passengers who have become more troublesome more often over the past 18 months, airlines are now looking to share their individual lists of banned passengers.

The aim: to create a single, industry-wide ‘no fly’ list of people who would be unable to book a ticket or board a flight on any participating airline.

The push follows a dramatic increase in the number of ‘air rage’ outbursts – sometimes fuelled by alcohol – after airlines made it mandatory to wear masks during a flight.

Delta Air Lines reported last week that it has banned over 1,600 people since it began strenuously enforcing the US government’s mask mandate in mid-2020

It’s suggested that more than 4,000 people have been slapped by a flight ban across most US carriers – which maintain a supplementary roster to the Government’s own no-fly list – although this number doesn’t include passengers banned by American Airlines and Southwest, which don’t make this data public.

According to a memo sent by the airline to flight attendants and reportedly sighted by US outlet CBS News, Delta has submitted the names of over 600 banned flyers to the Federal Aviation Administration. 

“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,” the memo is reported to have said.

“A list of banned customers doesn’t work as well if that customer can fly with another airline.”

The incoming CEO of Southwest Airlines, which ranks as the USA’s largest domestic airline e based on the number of passengers carried, indicated tacit support for Delta’s proposal provided it was channeled through the Airlines for America trade group.

“These are industry issues, and so I’d like to use the A4A as the body to think through that,” said Bob Jordan. 

On the local front, an assault on Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce in May 2017 by a man opposed to the airline’s stance on social issues such as gay marriage resulted in the man – Tony Overheu, then 67 – receiving a lifetime ban on flying with the airline, in line with company practice for anyone who harasses or attacks staff.

It was reported at the time that the ban would apply not only to Qantas and Jetstar but to partner airlines such as Emirates and members of the Oneworld alliance.

Executive Traveller readers: Should Australia maintain a national ‘no fly’ list so that a passenger banned from one airline finds themselves banned from all airlines, potentially including their regional and international partners?


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.


11 Jul 2014

Total posts 928

I think Tony Overheu was also banned from flying Virgin as well after that incident in a solidarity moment by Borghetti.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2554

I didn't see that reported anywhere but it certainly would make sense, and it'd not surprise me if this was something of a standing arrangement between the two airlines.


11 Jul 2014

Total posts 928

I couldn't find any articles supporting what I said but I'm sure JB took the line Tony Overheu can walk where ever he wanted. These rules should be enforced in Australia as well.

18 Sep 2015

Total posts 129

But I don't think that was Overheu as a customer - has he been known to misbehave while on an airline aircraft, in a terminal or while interacting with staff in a customer capacity? I have no issue with Joyce's response but it would be a long bow for other airlines to ban someone because they threw a meringue pie at a competitor's CEO, surely?

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 232

I get your point, Overheu was not likely to bring custard pies onto other airlines and begin lobbing them at flight attendants, pilots and the odd CEO if he spots them in 1A. But I think his actions demonstrated a lack of civility, a lack of empathy certainly towards those with different views to his in terms of sexuality, and a disregard for common courtesy, any of which could be unleashed at an airport lounge or on a flight. Plus it's a good example set for others who might want to indulge themselves along similar lines.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

03 Oct 2016

Total posts 21

I think it is a difficult issue, but I don't like where a universal no fly list based on the airlines perceptions leads. I've luckily never had a problem or even seen a problem on any flights I've been on and on face value I'd hate the idea of someone who causes trouble on one airline switches and flies on the other. But I also don't like the idea that an overzealous airline employee could essentially cause you to be imprisoned in Australia for life without an appeal procedure. On the broader issue of why there is so many issues with unruly passengers in the US, what is going on? This isn't usually a huge problem. Maybe it's worth getting to the bottom of this?

The issue with the US is mentioned in the article, it's the government and the airlines introduced mandatory mask-wearing, which isn't really an issue in Australia or most countries but in the US mask wearing has become 'politicised' just like COVID, and politicised along political party lines, so the same anti-vax people who claim COVID is a lie and say it's a 'plandemic' etc also tend to be very right wing and Trump supporters, no surprise there! Plus even in 2020 you had all those reports of Trump supporters 'protesting' and causing problems on flights, then you add in some free booze and it all feeds into what the airlines are seeing.

Absolutely a great idea in principle, and largely in practice. A passenger who for example gets drunk and unruly and ends up being gorilla-taped to the jump seat as a potential danger to themselves and others on a Jetstar flight to/from Bali, for example, could easily pull the same stunt on a Qantas or Virgin or even a Rex flight.

But there should also be some 'appeals' process to stop a ban being used for the wrong reason, although these days with so many people using smartphones to video things, there would be plenty of evidence one way or the other. Maybe we should also consider that some behaviours such as assaulting airline staff without provocation warrant a lifetime ban, but some offences could carry a shorter ban such as one, two or three years and be reviewed at the end of that period.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Nov 2013

Total posts 477

Having been on the receiving end of the behaviours of an unruly passenger 2hrs into a LAX-BNE flight I'm all for this move but also support AsiaBizTravellers suggestion that there should be an appeals/review process.

06 Feb 2021

Total posts 54

It's my understanding at a recent meeting of the FAA and various Airline and related industry unions in the U.S.,  the FAA basically told the Union representing cabin crew they should do more to control passengers. To which the Unions response was the FAA, who largely set the rules and can influence Government legislation and policy, should get off their backsides and do what many passengers have demanded for years, mandate minimum seat sizes.  The Unions position is that the ever declining amount of space in economy class, at the same time as the average person is getting larger, is a direct and indisputable cause of a lot of angst by passengers.  (I'm fairly slender compared to most people, and my wife is petit, but we will no longer fly long haul economy, it's just plain unpleasant.) 

08 May 2020

Total posts 46

Sounds good but the airlines shouldn’t be judge and jury - they’d need to shake up the system if the want it to be universal.

It raises some interesting data protection questions for sure. And while truly troublesome passengers probably deserve to be kept off planes, there have been various cases where people get kicked off a plane for less justifiable reasons (Dr Dao on United comes to mind, but also cases where passengers were being harassed by another passenger but ended up back inside the airport because cabin crew couldn't be bothered trying to resolve the issue). As most airlines can't even keep their websites functioning properly I don't trust them to assess each case on its merits when it is just easier to block everyone on the list.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Dec 2012

Total posts 20

I'd also say... ban them, ban them all.  If you cannot control yourself and need to use violence to resolve your issues, then an airline is the last place you should be allowed on.

Nothing but support for this. Can it be extended to people abusing retail workers being restricted to online shopping?

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