By Nathalie Voit

Delta Air Lines asked the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to create a “no-fly” list for unruly travelers, calling for “zero tolerance” for any behavior that disrupts safety on board a flight, Reuters first reported.

“In addition to the welcome increase in enforcement and prosecutions, we are requesting you support our efforts with respect to the much-needed step of putting any person convicted of an on-board disruption on a national, comprehensive, unruly passenger “no-fly” list that would bar that person from traveling on any commercial air carrier,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian told Attorney General Merrick Garland in a letter dated Jan. 3, according to NPR.

While such incidents of unruly and dangerous behavior are rare, Bastian said the national “no-fly” list “will help prevent future incidents and serve as a strong symbol of the consequences of not complying with crew member instructions on commercial aircraft,” CNBC reported.

The request arrived amid a record 5,981 reports of unruly passengers last year, according to The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) 2021 unruly traveler data. Nearly three in four of those reports were related to disputes over mask mandates, the agency said.

The number of investigations has substantially increased since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, with investigations initiated climbing from 146 in 2019 to a record 1,099 in 2021. As a result of the increase in incidents, the FAA declared a “zero tolerance” policy for unruly airline passengers in January of last year.

In concordance with the new policy, the FAA upped its maximum civil penalty per violation for unruly passenger cases to $37,000, up from $25,000 in 2018. Passengers can receive multiple violations per incident.

The DOJ also instructed attorneys to prioritize cases of criminal behavior on flights. In a memo issued on Nov. 24, Garland urged federal prosecutors to notify law enforcement officials about incidents on commercial aircraft that violate federal statutes.

“Passengers who assault, intimidate, or threaten violence against flight crews and flight attendants do more than harm those employees; they prevent the performance of critical duties that help ensure safe air travel,” the attorney general said in the statement. “Similarly, when passengers commit violent acts against other passengers in the close confines of a commercial aircraft, the conduct endangers everyone aboard.”

Garland said the Justice Department established an information-sharing protocol between the FAA and the DOJ “to help ensure that the Department is notified about criminal conduct occurring on commercial aircraft.”

“This protocol has already resulted in the referral of dozens of incidents by the FAA to the Federal Bureau of lnvestigation (FBI) for investigation,” he added.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) also doubled fines in September for passengers who refuse to comply with federal mask mandatefor air travel. Minimum fines for travelers who fail to wear masks on-board were doubled to $500, with repeat offenders facing a fine of up to $3,000. The federal mask requirement for individuals at airports and on-board commercial aircraft is active through March 18, the agency said.

Year to date, the FAA logged 323 reports of unruly travelers, 205 of which were related to face coverings.