Major U.S. airlines are increasing staffing and security at airports in and out of the Washington, D.C., area after yesterday’s assault on Capitol Building. The violence also prompted an appeal from the nation’s biggest flight attendants union.
Carriers including American Airlines and United Airlines said they were taking measures to avoid potential trouble on the ground and in the air after thousands of supporters of President Donald Trump demanding the presidential election be overturned stormed the Capitol building on Wednesday.
The riot was preceded by at least two in-flight incidents on D.C.-bound flights. One involved Senator Mitt Romney, R.-Utah, who was reportedly heckled by a group of Trump supporters on a flight from Salt Lake City on Tuesday.
Romney, a vocal critic of the plan by some GOP lawmakers to formally object to the election results, was also subjected to a tirade by a woman at Salt Lake International Airport who refused to put on a face mask. A video of the confrontation was posted on Facebook.
Another in-flight disruption captured on video occurred on an American flight earlier this week from Texas to Washington, D.C., with passengers screaming at each other after one person projected a “Trump 2020” image onto the aircraft’s ceiling.
“The mob mentality behavior that took place on several flights to the D.C. area [Tuesday] was unacceptable and threatened the safety and security of every single person onboard,” stated Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, which represents nearly 50,000 flight attendants at 17 airlines.
The AFA called for airlines and transportation authorities to make clear that bad behavior wouldn’t be tolerated and that unruly travelers would be barred from boarding planes.
Some airline passengers took part in the violence at the Capitol, creating “further concern about their departure from the D.C. area, Nelson said. “Acts against our democracy, our government, and the freedom we claim as Americans must disqualify these individuals from the freedom of flight.”
The Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday warned that disruptive acts on airplanes could violate federal law, noting that violators face possible imprisonment and fines of up to $35,000.
“We echo the sentiments of AFA that our first priority must be the safety and security of our passengers and crew,” United stated in an email to CBS MoneyWatch. “Since earlier this week our crews have been moved from downtown D.C. hotels. Additionally, we have increased staffing at Washington-area airports and are in close contact with appropriate law enforcement agencies.”
American also said it was working with local law enforcement and its airport authority partners to ensure safety on the ground and in the air. “We also have increased staffing at Washington D.C.-area airports and will not serve alcohol on flights to and from this area as a precautionary measure,” a spokesperson stated in an email.
Delta Air Lines works with law enforcement agencies and others to “enact methods — both seen and unseen — as part of our unwavering efforts to keep everyone safe at our airports and on our flights,” a spokesperson said by email.
“We expect our people and customers to treat one another with dignity and respect,” the spokesperson added.
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