As federal officials work to identify the hundreds of angry mobsters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, some in the airline industry are expressing fear about the threat these individuals may pose to to their safety — and calling on officials to keep those who participated in the riot from entering the skies.
“Some of the people who traveled in our planes yesterday participated in the insurrection at the Capitol today. Their violent and seditious actions at the Capitol today create further concern about their departure from the DC area,” wrote Sara Nelson, president of The Association of Flight Attendants. “Acts against our democracy, our government and the freedom we claim as Americans must disqualify these individuals from the freedom of flight.”
Nelson, whose organization represents more than 50,000 flight attendants from 17 different airlines, called on the Transportation Security Administration, Department of Homeland Security and other agencies to “ensure the safety and security of passengers and crew by keeping all problems on the ground.” The mobsters, who many believe were incited by President Trump, hailed from a variety of states.
In a statement shared on social media, Rep. Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, made a similar plea to the TSA and Federal Bureau of Investigation to keep perpetrators off planes.
Chairman @BennieGThompson released a statement urging @TSA and the @FBI to use their authorities to add the violent perpetrators involved in the domestic terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol yesterday to the No-Fly List and keep them off planes. pic.twitter.com/Wb9ySGeoe3
— House Homeland Security Committee (@HomelandDems) January 7, 2021
The day before the event — which was initially billed as a protest against the certification of Joe Biden’s presidency — Nelson said that multiple incidents occurred on flights that put individuals in danger. “The mob mentality behavior that took place on several flights to the D.C. area yesterday was unacceptable. It will not happen again,” Nelson’s January 6 statement reads. “There’s a reason that there are strict penalties and fines for failing to comply with crewmember instructions. Enforcement keeps everyone safe.”
According to ABC News, in one instance, Trump supporters and other passengers got into an “angry shouting match” after one of his supporters projected a “Trump 2020” logo on the ceiling of the plane.
No airlines have responded to calls for a ban on Trump rioters flying home, but at least one, American Airlines (AA), has decided not to serve alcohol. In a statement to Yahoo, a spokesperson for AA said the company was taking steps to ensure the safety of its employees. “We are working closely with local law enforcement and airport authority partners to ensure the safety of our customers and team members on the ground and in the air,” the spokesperson wrote. “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. We will continue to enforce policies that ensure our customers’ and team members’ safety and wellbeing.”
In an interview with Yahoo Life, a Dallas-based AA flight attendant — who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect his job — said that “flight attendants have a responsibility to the crew and passengers to mitigate any threat to safety.” But while he feels that flight attendants have a major role to play, he says companies also need to ensure that their employees are protected. “Airlines have a responsibility to put their employees in the best position to do their jobs safely and effectively.”
Another Dallas-based AA flight attendant, who asked for anonymity due to her political views, seemed to disagree. “I do not support this ban,” said the six-year veteran of flight. “General bans based on party affiliation are not only prejudicial but sweep up many innocent people in an impassioned decision. Bans should be issued on a case by case basis. Further, until each person has had their day in court, all are innocent until proven guilty.”
She argued that if the Trump mobsters are subject to restrictions, that Black Lives Matter protestors should be too. “Destruction of property and trespassing are obvious and egregious violations of law. This past summer, protesters and rioters were on our planes as well. We now know that federal buildings on the west coast and private property all over the nation were vandalized and in some cases destroyed,” she told Yahoo Life. “Justice is and should be blind. If the airlines suspend travel privileges for protesters participating in yesterday’s acts of terrorism, the same logic and discipline should be applied to those who trespassed and destroyed property this past summer.”
The flight attendant said she and other flight attendants were “confronted” by BLM protestors over the summer after asking them to wear masks, saying she feared for her job and was told to “keep the peace” in order to “not be a YouTube star.” Yahoo Life could not corroborate the incident. President Trump made a similar claim in September saying that there were “planes loaded with thugs” headed to BLM protests, but his claim was later disputed.
As of now, there have been no reports of violence on planes related either to Trump or BLM. But that’s not to say there have not been racially-motivated attacks. In September, a Black woman was reportedly harassed by a white woman wearing a Blue Lives Matter mask on a Delta flight. Delta ultimately apologized and upgraded the woman on her return flight, issuing a statement later saying, “When we say Black lives matter, we mean it.”
In a statement to Yahoo Life, Delta declined to comment on the calls for a ban, but suggested that it is taking action behind the scenes. “There’s nothing more important than protecting the integrity of the safety and security measures that keep our employees and customers safe,” Delta spokesperson Morgan Durrant wrote. “While that means refraining from discussing specifics, we can say Delta continually works with law enforcement agencies and all aviation stakeholders to enact methods — both seen and unseen — as part of our unwavering efforts to keep everyone safe at our airports and on our flights.”
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