United Airlines has been criticized for a “sick marketing stunt” in which the airline is accused of using its flight attendants as “props” by sending an internal memo reminding crew members not to use duct tape to restrain unruly passengers. The private memo was leaked to the media and has since gone viral.
In fact, United Airlines removed duct tape from its cabins in 2014 and flight attendants are trained to use an approved restraint system which is carried on every aircraft in United’s fleet.
The anti-duct tape policy has been highlighted following several high-profile incidents at other airlines in recent weeks. The use of duct tape to restrain unruly passengers has been criticized by some experts because it might prevent a passenger escaping an aircraft in the event of an emergency.
It is also difficult to remove the tape should the unruly passenger experience a serious medical issue.
Flight attendants at American Airlines recently used duct tape to restrain a woman who appeared to be suffering a mental health crisis and in another incident, the tape was used to strap a 13-year-old to his seat. The boy is believed to be autistic.
In contrast, the most recent report of United flight attendants using duct tape to restrain a passenger was 13 years ago in 2008.
“This is a sick marketing stunt by the airline that removed duct tape from cabin in 2014,” blasted Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) which represents United’s crew members.
“The essential’ workers on the frontlines deserve support and respect, not to be used as props in this dangerous PR BS (public relations bull shit),” a tweet from Nelson continued.
“An apology is due United.”
But in another recent incident, flight attendants at Frontier Airlines used duct tape to restrain a passenger despite the fact duct tape isn’t an approved restraint technique. The decision to use duct tape landed the flight attendants in hot water and initially resulted in their suspension pending an investigation.
A backlash led Frontier to reinstate the crew members but they remain on administrative leave while the investigation is concluded.
United could be at pains to point out that duct tape must not be used to restrain a violent passenger because of the fallout from the infamous Dr David Dao incident in 2017. United eventually reached an undisclosed settlement with Dr Dao after he was left bloodied and bruised when security guards dragged him off a United Express plane because the airline had oversold the flight.
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.