Over 3,000 passengers have been banned by U.S. airlines since mask requirements have become the standard. Of course, there are now even more severe penalties since the CDC issued an order mandating that masks be worn on flights in the U.S. It’s likely this requirement will stick around for most, if not all, of 2021, so if you wish to fly this year, mask up or risk being banned and/or fined.
How to Get on an Airline’s No Fly List
While not complying with mask requirements is recently the most common reason to end up on an airline’s “no fly” list, there are plenty of other reasons passengers have been banned by airlines in the past, ranging from unruly activity to not abiding by an airline’s contract of carriage rules. Here are 7 ways to get banned by an airline.
Refuse to Wear a Mask
We’ll start with the hot topic of the past year. Airlines began placing passengers on “no fly” lists well before a federal mask mandate went into place. Last summer, Delta led the way, by banning nearly 300 passengers by September 2020. More recently, that number has risen to around 950 passengers banned by Delta for refusing to wear a mask.
Other airlines aren’t far behind. Here’s a recent tally taken by CBS News.
- Delta: 950
- United: 610
- Frontier: 550
- Spirit: 432
- Alaska Airlines: 335
- JetBlue: 115
- Hawaiian Airlines: 56
- Allegiant: 15
- American Airlines: undisclosed
- Southwest: undisclosed
The length of these bans varies by airline and how disruptive each passenger was during the altercation. Most airlines seem to be banning persistent, non-mask wearing passengers for as long as the airline has the mask requirement. Since it is now federally mandated, I would assume these bans will be over once the federal mandate is rescinded.
Smoking or Vaping on the Plane
Believe it or not, smoking wasn’t completely banned on airplanes in the U.S. until the year 2000. Back in the heyday of the 50’s, smoking was a common occurrence while flying. In 1973, regulations started mandating non-smoking sections on aircraft and eventually airlines started banning the practice altogether, followed by a federal mandate in 2000.
These days, vaping is a popular way for smokers to hide their habit, but it is still not allowed onboard an aircraft. In 2019, a Spirit Airlines passenger was caught vaping in his seat by a flight attendant. When she warned him that smoking wasn’t allowed, he decided to take a few puffs in the bathroom, which set off the smoke alarm.
This prompted an officer to meet the plane at the gate and while the passenger wasn’t arrested, he was banned for life by Spirit. On the bright side, he may get to enjoy a more comfortable flight now that the airline with the shortest seat pitch in America is no longer an option.
Opening the Emergency Exit Doors in a Non-Emergency
The doors of an airplane should never be touched by a passenger unless it is truly an emergency. Deploying an emergency exit slide when there isn’t an actual emergency costs an airline both time and money, not to mention delaying all the other passengers on the flight.
In September 2020, a Ukraine International Airlines passenger was feeling a little hot upon arrival in Kiev. She decided it was time for a walk, opened the emergency exit, and went for a stroll on the wing. Although this didn’t deploy an emergency slide, it was still taken very seriously by the airline. The passenger ended up blacklisted by the airline for violating aviation safety rules and her behavior onboard.
Harassing the Crew
Airline crew members often have to deal with disruptive passengers, but there are, of course, limits as to what is just disruptive and what constitutes harassment. In 2015, Qantas Group banned a passenger for 2 years after he pinched a flight attendant’s bum onboard a Jetstar flight from Melbourne to the Gold Coast in Australia. The flight was met by 3 federal officers and the passenger was escorted off the plane, where he would not be able to return for at least a full two years.
Force Your Way into the Lounge
Being a celebrity doesn’t mean you’re off the hook regarding airline bans. Back in 2006, rap artist Snoop Dogg managed to get a lifetime ban from British Airways — and it wasn’t anything he did on the airplane. Instead, his entourage tried forcing their way into a VIP lounge at London’s Heathrow Airport.
During a layover, while flying from Los Angeles to South Africa via London, Snoop’s crew tried to enter a first-class lounge at Heathrow, but were denied due to many of the passengers holding economy tickets. This started a riot in the airport after several tried to simply barge their way inside. The mayhem ensued at a duty-free shop where bottles were smashed and looting occurred. Seven officers were hurt during the altercation, which ended with Snoop and five others spending the night in jail. While Snoop has since been allowed to enter Britain again, he won’t be flying British Airways.
Skip a Leg
Hidden-city ticketing is a way flyers take advantage of the wacky airfare pricing systems. It can sometimes be cheaper to fly from New York to Albuquerque via Dallas than it is to simply fly from New York to Dallas. Therefore, if you buy the ticket to Albuquerque and just get off the plane in Dallas, you’ve saved some money.
The problem is that this usually violates an airline’s contract of carriage. And if you do it too often, the airline will take notice. An elite status member of American Airlines was banned from its AAdvantage frequent flyer program after skipping the last leg of around 95 flights. American offered him the chance to pay the difference in airfare (around $10,000) in order to get reinstated, but he declined and lost all of his miles and status with the airline.
Tweet About Hacking
In 2015, a computer security researcher tweeted about United’s vulnerabilities to its onboard systems. He jokingly said that he could get the oxygen masks on the plane to deploy. More concerning were media interviews where he theorized on how to turn the engines off at 35,000 feet and turning off lights in the cockpit while hacking into the inflight entertainment system.
United denied that this was a possibility, but nonetheless, did not take it lightly and refused to fly this passenger on his next flight. Instead, FBI agents detained and questioned him for several hours. Even though he was unable to fly United, he did eventually get a ticket to San Francisco later that evening, flying Southwest.