An American Airlines pilot flying from Washington D.C. to Phoenix, Arizona threatened to divert the plane and abandon a group of passengers who were repeatedly chanting “USA!” during the flight on Friday. The stern warning came as lawmakers, aviation unions and federal agencies urged airlines to take a hardline on pro-Trump supporters disrupting flights to and from the nation’s capital.
“This is the way it’s going to be… It’s a four and half hour flight out to Phoenix, we’ll put this plane down in the middle of Kansas and dump people off. I don’t care. We will do that if that’s what it takes. Behave please,” the pilot told a rowdy bunch of Trump-affiliated passengers over the PA after the chanting broke out.
The pilot decided to take action after a group of passengers including self-proclaimed “conservative activists” started to shout “USA!, USA!, USA!” during the flight, disrupting other passengers and the flight attendants.
Mindy Robinson, a passenger onboard the flight who said she was travelling with a group of “patriots” posted a video of the incident on Twitter, saying “American Airlines is everything but American.”
Robinson was upset that the airline expected passengers to comply with aviation rules and claimed staffers were rude to her because she was wearing a MAGA cap.
The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), however, said it members working at American Airlines had been involved in “terrifying” politically motivated disturbances onboard flights to and from Washington D.C. in the last few days, saying onboard incidents were continuing despite promises to take tough action.
And in one case, racial slurs were “hurled” towards a black Flight Attendant as she and her colleagues rode in a shuttle bus to Washington Reagan airport.
“On another flight, a group of passengers removed their masks after takeoff and harassed the Flight Attendants and other passengers throughout the flight, up to and including the deplaning process,” the union told its members on Friday.
American Airlines has stationed extra staff at departure gates across the nation in order to help identify and remove passengers displaying aggressive behavior before they make it onboard the plane. The airline has also asked for back up from law enforcement to help police boarding gates in the run-up to the Presidential inauguration.
And on Friday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued its own warning, telling protestors that unruly behavior onboard a plane could result in fines of up tot $35,000, as well as jail time for failing to follow lawful crew member instructions.
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 used by some of the biggest names in journalism.