Additional Security Expected At Airports Following Capitol Riot
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – When a situation becomes scary, we are usually in a position to remove ourselves from it – walk away. That’s not true in the air, as this week has made some travelers keenly aware.
Even before the U.S. Capitol building was stormed Wednesday, there were reports of clashes at airports and on flights between supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump and other passengers.
.@SenMikeLee responded today after videos began circulating of people confronting @SenatorRomney at the airport and on a plane, with a group of passengers chanting "Traitor" during a flight: "Let’s all treat each other with respect and decency." https://t.co/maixBq7Oql #KSLTV
— KSL 5 TV (@KSL5TV) January 6, 2021
One notable ruckus took place at the airport and then on a Delta Airlines flight traveling from Salt Lake City to Washington, D.C. Video posted on social media showed people who support Trump stalking, harassing and attempting to intimidate Sen. Mitt Romney. At one point they angrily chanted “traitor” at him while he sat in his seat.
Romney has been a vocal critic of some of Trump’s actions.
— KSL 5 TV (@KSL5TV) January 6, 2021
Now in their own call-to-action, the flight attendants’ union has demanded more be done to “keep problems off our flights,” a statement sent to KSL-TV said.
“The mob mentality behavior that took place on several flights to the D.C. area … threatened the safety and security of every single person onboard,” the statement read, adding that people who participated in the “insurrection at the Capitol” posed a national security threat and shouldn’t be allowed to fly anymore.
Salt Lake City International Airport Response
Nancy Volmer, Salt Lake City International Airport spokesperson, said everyone who works at the airport goes through training which generally equates to if you see something amiss, call airport police.
She also pointed out that airports have long been a place where people’s fuses tend to be short.
“When you have that many people together there are times tensions increase whether it’s related to the current climate in the country or for another reason,” she said.
Volmer agreed it’s better to deal with unruly or violent passengers before a flight is airborne, but that’s easier said than done.
“If they aren’t violent in the gate area before they’re in the air, there is no way we would be able to identify that person,” Volmer said. “Our priority is to make sure passengers are safe from curb to gate.”
Any individual airport is, of course, limited in its ability to keep travelers safe because, by its nature, travel means going somewhere else so much of the task falls on federal agencies and airlines themselves.
The Federal Aviation Administration told KSL-TV it “works closely with federal law enforcement and national security partners on any reported security threats that may impact aviation safety.”
The FAA has not had regulatory authority over aviation or aircraft security since 2001.
Transportation Security Administration spokesperson Lorie Dankers said the “TSA is always on high alert and is prepared for all contingencies.”
For security reasons, Dankers declined to give details, but added, “Travelers may notice additional law enforcement presence or additional canines working, especially when events justify an increased security posture.”
KSL-TV reached out to many of our national air carriers for comment. All responded that safety is a top priority, that they coordinate with law enforcement, and that they expect decorum on their flights – and a few offered some specific actions they are taking to help ensure it.
American Airlines said no more booze for those traveling to and from D.C. for the time being. Of note, American already stopped serving alcohol in the main cabin on any flight due to COVID-19, but now business- and first-class travelers will be sober, too.
“We have also increased staffing at D.C.-area airports as a precautionary measure,” American officials wrote in a statement.
Representatives with Delta Airlines, which has a hub at Salt Lake City International, refrained from discussing security measures.
“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.”
Southwest Airlines said it is monitoring current events to “ensure safety.”
“We are also keeping an open line of communication with our local employees and offering support during this challenging time for our nation,” Southwest officials wrote.
United representatives said it has moved flight crews from downtown D.C. hotels and has increased staffing at Washington-area airports.
Alaska Airlines officials said, “We will not tolerate any disturbance onboard our aircraft or at any of the airports we serve.”
Requests for comment from Frontier and Jet Blue were not immediately returned.
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