Ban Pro-Trump Mob From Flying Home, Say Flight Attendants

The head of the nation's largest flight attendant union says Wednesday's riot at the Capitol "disqualif[ies] these individuals from the freedom of flight.”
January 7, 2021, 3:10pm
U.S. Capitol Police retreat from Capitol grounds. (Photo by Michael Nigro/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)​
U.S. Capitol Police retreat from Capitol grounds. (Photo by Michael Nigro/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

Thousands of Trump supporters traveled to D.C. ahead of Wednesday’s riot at the Capitol, making flying a nightmare for other passengers and especially those who planned to cast a Senate vote to confirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. The head of the country’s largest union of flight attendants doesn’t think the supporters who rioted should get another chance.

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Sara Nelson, the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-Communications Workers of America (AFA-CWA) and one of the country’s most visible labor leaders, released a statement Wednesday night denouncing the mob takeover of the Capitol and referencing the disruptive flights from the days leading up to it. 

“The mob-mentality behavior that took place on several flights to the D.C. area yesterday was unacceptable and threatened the safety and security of every single person onboard,” Nelson said. “It will not happen again.”

Nelson continued: “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 D.C. area. Acts against our democracy, our government, and the freedom we claim as Americans must disqualify these individuals from the freedom of flight.”

Nelson went on to say that airlines as well as federal law enforcement and agencies dealing with aviation “must take all steps to ensure the safety and security of passengers and crew by keeping all problems on the ground.”

The AFA-CWA represents nearly 50,000 flight attendants who work for 17 different airlines, including United, Delta, and Frontier. 

Julie Hedrick, the national president of a different union, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) which represents 27,000 flight attendants at American Airlines, said in a statement to VICE News that her union was “incredibly concerned about recent politically motivated incidents on board passenger aircraft.”

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“Regardless of one’s political beliefs, the cabin of a commercial aircraft must, out of necessity, be a calm environment for the safety of everyone onboard,” Hedrick said. “Our Flight Attendants are well trained in handling inflight disruptions, and our procedures for handling incidents in collaboration with our flight deck crews and law enforcement are clear and concise.”

In a statement to VICE News, Delta Airlines spokesperson Morgan Durrant didn’t directly address Nelson’s request, but said “there’s nothing more important than protecting the integrity of the safety and security measures that keep our employees and customers safe.”

“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.”

Fifty-two people were arrested during yesterday’s riot, but hundreds more stormed the Capitol as a Congressional session to affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory was delayed for several hours. Four people died, including one woman who was shot and killed by Capitol Police.

On Tuesday, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, a Republican who supported Biden’s certification and harshly criticized the president on the Senate floor when the session resumed, was heckled by Trump supporters both at the Salt Lake City International Airport and on his flight to D.C. for not supporting Trump’s bid to overturn the election results. 

"That's something I've gotten used to over the years,” Romney told reporters yesterday prior to the riot. “That's the nature of politics today, unfortunately."