Ahead of Tuesday’s hotly contested Presidential election and the fear that violence and unrest might erupt in some metropolitan areas, United Airlines has taken the decision to temporarily move its flight attendants out of downtown hotels in a number of cities across the United States.
A memo sent to flight attendants just before the weekend said the airline was taking “precautionary measures” to protect the safety and welfare of crew’s across the country. In preparation for potential unrest, many shops and businesses have been boarding up their premises in key cities and issuing urgent guidance to employees.
“As we approach the 2020 presidential election, there is a possibility of renewed protest activity,” the memo sent on Friday afternoon reads. Explaining the decision to temporarily relocate flight attendants in less desirable airport hotel locations, the memo continued: “We are taking precautionary measures to ensure your safety and suitable rest are met.”
The move to airport area hotels will last for at least a week with affected cities including Seattle, Washington, Denver, Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Portland.
After a summer and autumn punctuated by sometimes violent and destructive protests, airlines have become increasingly used to quickly changing plans to protect their employees.
Last Wednesday, American Airlines relocated its crew’s out of downtown Philadelphia to an airport location following the shooting death of Walter Wallace Jr by police in the city. The union representing flight attendants at the airline said the decision had been made “out of an abundance of caution” but that the airline’s Corporate Security department was “continuously” monitoring the situation.
And in August, United Airlines had to relocate its entire operations center to an emergency backup location outside of downtown Chicago after unrest consumed the area around its normal Willis Tower location. United is believed to be planning to do the same ahead of the Presidential election.
Speaking to USA Today, a spokesperson for Southwest Airlines said the airline had not yet moved flight attendants out of downtown hotels but would do so if unrest occurs. The spokesperson for the Dallas-based airline said the safety of its crew was its “number one priority”.
Delta declined to comment citing “safety and security considerations”, while American said it was continuing to monitor the situation and would make changes if necessary.
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.