Don't want to wear a mask? Welcome to the no-fly list

This seems a bit on the severe side, doesn’t it? Delta Airlines announced this week that it was adding 460 people to their no-fly lists. But these aren’t terrorists or potential skyjackers. The new additions are all the names of people who refused to wear a facemask during previous flights. At first glance, I was a bit surprised there were less than 500 of them after the many months that the rules have been in place. Still, it’s a private business and they’re allowed to set the rules about requirements for travel (within reasonable limits) so they might be able to get away with this. But shouldn’t there have been some measure less harsh than lumping people in with al Queda suspects? (ABC News)

Usually reserved for suspected terrorists, Delta Airlines has added the names of 460 people to its no-fly lists for refusing to comply with a requirement to wear masks during flights, according to a memo to employees from the company’s CEO.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian revealed the number in an internal memo about breast cancer awareness month. He encouraged employees to participate in helping to raise money to fight the disease.

“Throughout the pandemic, we have focused our efforts on protecting our people, our customers and our communities,” Bastian wrote in the memo sent to employees on Thursday and obtained by ABC News.

One of the first questions I had was how Delta managed to gain the authority to modify the no-fly lists to begin with. Those lists are supposed to be maintained by the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC). That’s a division of the FBI and they’re not generally considered to be beholden to Delta Airlines when making such decisions.

But as it turns out, the airlines keep their own no-fly lists above and beyond the “official” lists that guide the TSA. The TSC’s list can stop you from making it through security at the airport, but the airlines’ lists can prevent you from even purchasing a ticket to begin with. According to NPR, there’s plenty of precedent for rules like these and the government tends to allow the airlines to handle such things as they see fit, provided the rules they put in place aren’t discriminatory toward specific groups of people.

None of this explains how an airline can get away with banning you for having “lewd, obscene and offensive breasts.” But in that case, I believe the airline later apologized to the woman who was barred from boarding the aircraft.

Delta isn’t even the first airline to make this decision. Back during the summer, United Airlines announced a similar policy. The problem is that once you wind up on one of these lists, it can be an extensive, challenging process to get your name off of it, assuming it’s even possible to do so. That’s something one state senator learned the hard way a few years ago when his name was added to the no-fly lists in error.

While I realize there are plenty of people out there railing against mandates to wear masks, shutdown orders and all the rest, there really doesn’t seem to be much of an option in this case. Airline travel was already an awful experience to begin with without having to mask up, but this is apparently the new normal. You still have other options for travel, assuming you have the time available to take a train, drive or find some other way to get where you’re going. Personally, it would pretty much take a real state of emergency to get me on a plane again at this point.

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