Flight Attendants at United Airlines have been advised to avoid wearing clothing that identifies them as either an American citizen or a crew member for a U.S.-based airline while they are on international layovers anywhere in the world. The extraordinary warning comes as geopolitical tensions in the Middle East mount following the killing of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani.
“…as a crewmember working for a U.S. carrier, we should always use caution while on layover anywhere in the world,” the memo from the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) to United’s 22,000 flight attendants reads.
“Avoid wearing clothing that will easily identify you as either a crewmember or a U.S. citizen,” the memo continues, while also advising flight attendants to maintain situational awareness and to stay clear of large protests, rallies and mass public events.
Like many international airlines, United has an internal security team that constantly monitors the changing security situation in layover destinations around the world. But while the security department may occasionally issue safety directives for specific destinations, this new warning seems to go one step further.
In addition to keeping a low-profile, United flight crew have also been told to stay with crew members whenever they leave their hotel and to tell other flight attendants where they are going. Flight attendants should also keep their passports on them at all times and preferably have a cellphone with a global calling plan.
An advisory from the State Department about heightened Middle East tensions warns U.S. citizens they may face increased security risks while abroad. U.S. citizens are advised to keep a low-profile, be aware of their surroundings, review security plans and keep travel documents close to hand at all times. The advisory was last updated on Tuesday.
Some popular destinations where United’s crew frequently stay downroute such as the United Kingdom and Germany also have Level 2 travel advisories, which warn of the potential for terrorist attacks
Following the downing of Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 in a suspected missile strike from inside Iran, a number of international airlines have also followed advisories from the FAA and other civil aviation authorities to reroute flights around Iran and Iraq until further notice over fears a commercial plane could be shot down by a stray missile.
The likes of Emirates, Qatar and flydubai, along with Air Arabia, Turkish Airlines and Smartwings continue to use Iranian and Iraqi airspace.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.