“This feels terrible to even say, but anything that would filter out the anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers, anti-whatever, would just make things easier,” one flight attendant said.
For months, public-health experts have called on the Biden administration to implement a vaccine requirement for domestic air travel in order to slow the spread of the COVOID-19 pandemic. Now, some flight attendants are joining the chorus of those calling for a vaccine mandate for passengers to help slow another fast-growing crisis: increasingly unruly and violent passengers aboard airliners.
“If you’re the kind of person who would attack a flight attendant over wearing a mask, it absolutely tracks that you’re anti-vax,” said Marc, a flight attendant with a budget carrier who requested to go by his middle name to avoid being targeted for supporting a vaccine mandate. “It could genuinely save someone.”
As more Americans returned to the skies last year after the pandemic effectively shut down air travel across the globe, unruly passenger incidents aboard U.S. airliners skyrocketed to the highest levels in aviation history. Earlier this month, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released figures revealing that of those 5,981 incidents in 2021, more than 70 percent were “mask-related.” The number of incidents that have resulted in enforcement actions, meanwhile, has increased nearly 240 percent since 2019, before the pandemic.