A federal judge in Texas said United must pause its vaccine mandate for employees seeking a medical or religious exemption

United employee with vaccination
  • A Texas judge told United it must pause its plan to put workers who requested an exemption on leave.
  • The temporary order follows a lawsuit filed by 6 United employees who say the mandate is discriminatory.
  • United defended its policy, saying vaccinations work and most of its US workforce has gotten one.

A federal judge in Texas ordered United Airlines to temporarily pause its plan to put unvaccinated workers on leave if they requested a medical or religious exemption from complying with the company’s strict vaccine mandate.

On Tuesday, US District Judge Mark Pittman blocked United’s vaccine mandate for workers who requested an exemption, effectively keeping them on the company payroll, reported CNN. The ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by six United employees in September who said the company’s plan to put employees who requested an exemption on temporary leave was not a reasonable accommodation, but rather a punitive action that could lead to termination.

The employees, which include two pilots and one flight attendant, accused the airline of discrimination against workers who requested accommodation, saying the policy violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Civil Rights Act, according to the lawsuit.

Pittman’s restraining order, which expires on October 26, is only a temporary halt to United’s policy while he hears more arguments on the case.

“The court is not currently ruling on the merits of the parties’ arguments on these points,” Pittman said in his order. “Rather the court seeks simply to avoid the risk of irreparable harm to the parties and to maintain the status quo while the court holds an evidentiary hearing.”

About 3% of United’s 67,000-strong US workforce, which is about 2,000 employees, requested a religious or medical accommodation in response to the company’s strict vaccine mandate. Last month, United created a new rule outlining how it would handle these cases once the deadline for getting vaccinated passed, which was September 27. According to the airline, employees with an approved exemption would be put on temporary leave until the airline established COVID safety protocols, while those whose request was denied would be fired. Worker pay would depend on their individual collective bargaining agreements.

While the order is temporary, Mark Paoletta, the attorney for the six employees, said he is pleased with the judge’s ruling.

“United Airlines’ refusal to provide reasonable accommodations to its vaccine mandate violates the federal civil rights protections of our clients, the hard working men and women at United,” said Paoletta. “We look forward to our clients’ rights be permanently protected.”

In response, United defended its mandate, emphasizing that vaccines work and only a small number of its employees are holding out on getting the shot.

“Vaccine requirements work and nearly all of United’s U.S. employees have chosen to get a shot. For a number of our employees who were approved for an accommodation, we’re working to put options in place that reduce the risk to their health and safety, including new testing regimens, temporary job reassignments and masking protocols,” United told Insider.

Over 99% of United’s US workforce has been inoculated since the company mandated the vaccine on August 6, with only 232 holding out on getting the shot. On Wednesday, United CEO Scott Kirby told CBS Mornings those unvaccinated employees are being fired for not complying with the policy.

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United CEO confirms 232 employees are being fired for not complying with its vaccine mandate

United Airlines vaccine
United Airlines is moving forward with the termination of 232 that have chosen not to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

  • United Airlines is in the process of terminating 232 employees that haven’t received the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • CEO Scott Kirby said that 99.7% of United’s 67,000 US employees have been vaccinated.
  • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order likely won’t affect United since nearly all workers are vaccinated.

United Airlines is currently in the process of terminating its remaining US employees that are unvaccinated against COVID-19. A total of 232 employees in the US have chosen not to be vaccinated, CEO Scott Kirby told CBS Mornings, out of the airline’s 67,000.

“I wish we would have gotten to 100% but out of our 67,000 US employees, there are 232 who haven’t been vaccinated and they are going through the termination process now,” Kirby said on Wednesday.

United was the first US airline to mandate vaccines when it announced in August that employees would have until October 25 or five weeks from the first full approval of a COVID-19 vaccine from the Food and Drug Administration, whichever came first. Pfizer’s vaccine was given that approval on August 23, starting the clock for United employees.

Kirby said he made the decision after hearing about the loss of a United pilot in July, after spending the worst of the pandemic writing letters to the family members of United employees lost to the virus.

“The second time I got notified of an employee – it was a 57-year-old pilot that had passed away – I walked around for half an hour and finally called our team and said ‘enough is enough,'” he told CBS. “We can do something about this, we believe in safety.”

“And weeks later, we got 99.7% of our employees vaccinated,” he said

United then made the landmark announcement the month following and started a trend for US airlines, with rival carriers like Hawaiian Airlines and Frontier Airlines soon following with similar mandates. Some airlines, however, continued to offer a testing opt-out that one public health expert told Insider may prove less effective without regular testing of multiple viral tests per week.

United’s mandate wasn’t without pushback, as evidenced by the 232 holdouts and more employees that Kirby said “did disagree” with the action. Kirby said he took an “empathetic” approach over an argumentative one to win the majority of his workforce over.

“I tried not to argue with them about it,” he said. “We’re not going to win the arguments on this with people. And I respect that you have a different opinion but you now have a decision to make about whether you want to get vaccinated and stay at United or not.”

Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors has taken the decision out of the hands of airlines, and some of the final holdouts including Southwest Airlines and American Airlines announced their plans for a mandate in early October.

Delta remains the largest US airline without a full vaccine mandate but reported a vaccination rate of around 90% on Wednesday. Workers can opt for testing over a vaccination but the opt-out comes with a requirement to wear masks and an additional $200 added on to monthly insurance premiums.

Kirby also isn’t concerned about Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order barring employees from checking vaccine status given the high vaccination rate the company has achieved.

“Because this is in the rear-view mirror for us, we don’t have to be as focused on what does this really mean in the short-term because we already got everybody vaccinated,” he said. “My responsibility is to try to do the right thing for United Airlines and what I think is safe.”

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United is launching 10 new routes to popular holiday hotspots this winter – see the full list

United Airlines Boeing 737
A United Airlines Boeing 737.

  • United is launching 10 new routes to destinations across the US, Caribbean, and Central America.
  • Routes will start in November and December and target popular holiday hotspots like Aspen and Nassau.
  • The airline is ramping up its winter schedule with over 3,500 domestic flights planned for December.

United Airlines is launching a slew of new routes this winter, focusing on ski and beach destinations for holiday getaways.

In a move to strengthen its holiday schedule, United is launching 10 new routes across the US, Caribbean, and Central America, targeting popular vacation destinations like Aspen, Orlando, and Nassau. The routes are part of the 3,500 domestic flights the company has planned for December, which United expects to be its busiest month in two years.

According to United, its winter schedule is 91% of the capacity offered in 2019, and winter holiday searches on the airline’s mobile app and website are up 16% compared to the same time in 2019.

“We’re seeing a lot of pent-up demand in our data and are offering a December schedule that centers on the two things people want most for the holidays: warm sunshine and fresh snow. We know families and friends are eager to reunite this holiday season, which is why we’re thrilled to add new flights that will help them connect and celebrate together,” said United’s vice president of network planning and scheduling Ankit Gupta.

According to travel industry analyst and president of Atmosphere Research Group Henry Harteveldt, United’s network expansion is good for travelers because it adds more options and potentially lower prices.

“United’s added flights will provide holiday travelers with more options. What we’ll need to see is how other airlines respond, which, given the calendar, needs to be soon as people are starting to focus on Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year travel. More flights mean more seats, and more seats generally translates into lower airfares,” Harteveldt told Insider.

Here’s a closer look at United’s 10 new routes.

Between Santa Ana, California and Aspen, Colorado

Aspen, Colorado
Aspen, Colorado

United will begin daily nonstop service between Santa Ana in Orange County and Aspen beginning December 16. The route will depart in the afternoon in both directions and be operated by United subsidiary Skywest using a Bombardier CRJ700 aircraft. United will run the service through March 23 and face no competition.

Between Cleveland and Nassau, Bahamas

nassau bahamas
Nassau, Bahamas

United will begin Saturday-only nonstop service between Cleveland and Nassau beginning December 18. The outbound flight will depart at 9:05 a.m and land in Nassau at 12:10 p.m., with the return leaving at 1:05 p.m. and arriving in Cleveland at 4:15 p.m. The flight will be operated by United subsidiary Mesa Airlines using an Embraer 175 aircraft. The service is seasonal through March 26 and will have no competitors.

Between Cleveland and Las Vegas

las vegas strip
Las Vegas, Nevada

United will begin daily nonstop service between Cleveland and Las Vegas beginning December 16 using a Boeing 737-800 aircraft. The outbound flight will depart at 6:45 p.m and land in Las Vegas at 8:40 p.m., while the red-eye return will leave at 11:00 p.m. and arrive in Cleveland at 5:59 a.m. the next day. The seasonal route will run through March 26 and face competition from low-cost carriers Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines.

Between Cleveland and Phoenix

phoenix
Phoenix, Arizona

United will begin daily nonstop service between Cleveland and Phoenix beginning December 16 using a Boeing 737-800 aircraft. The airline will offer a morning flight in both directions. United will operate the route through March 26 and compete with American Airlines and Frontier Airlines.

Between Denver and Nassau, Bahamas

Denver Skyline as seen from the Cherry Creek Dam road in Denver, Colorado on April 30, 2015.
Denver, Colorado

United will begin Saturday-only nonstop service between Denver and Nassau beginning November 6 using an Airbus A320 aircraft. The outbound flight will depart mid-morning from Denver, with the return leaving Nassau mid-afternoon. United will be the only operator on the route and the seasonal service will run through March 26.

Between Denver and Roatan, Honduras

Roatan Island, Honduras
Roatan, Honduras

United will begin Saturday-only nonstop service between Denver and Roatan beginning November 6 using a Boeing 737-800 aircraft. The airline will offer a morning flight from Denver with the return departing Roatan in the early afternoon. The seasonal service will operate through March 26 and face no competition.

Between Indianapolis and Orlando

City skyline and Lake Eola at Orlando in Florida
Orlando, Florida

United will begin Saturday-only nonstop service between Indianapolis and Orlando beginning December 18, though the flight will not operate on December 25. The airline will offer a mid-morning flight from Indianapolis with the return departing Orlando in the early afternoon. The flight will be operated by United subsidiary Republic Airways using an Embraer 175 aircraft. United will operate the route through April 30 and face competition from Spirit Airlines and Southwest Airlines.

Between Chicago and Guatemala City, Guatemala

Guatemala City
Guatemala City, Guatemala

United will begin Saturday-only nonstop service between Chicago and Guatemala City beginning December 18 using a Boeing 737-800 aircraft. The airline will offer a mid-morning flight from Chicago with the return departing Guatemala City in the early afternoon. United will operate the route through April 30 and face competition from American Airlines.

Between Los Angeles and Belize City, Belize

belize city belize
Belize City, Belize

United will begin Saturday-only nonstop service between Los Angeles and Belize City beginning December 18 using a Boeing 737-800 aircraft. The airline will offer a morning flight from Los Angeles with the return departing Belize City in the late afternoon. The seasonal route will run through August 13 and compete with Alaska Airlines.

Between San Francisco and Liberia, Costa Rica

Liberia
Liberia, Costa Rica

United will begin Saturday-only nonstop service between San Francisco and Liberia beginning November 6 using a Boeing 737-800 aircraft, though the route will also be offered on three Sundays this winter: December 19, December 26, and January 2. Frequencies will expand to thrice-weekly in both directions in June, operating to Liberia on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays and back to Los Angeles on Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays. The airline will offer an afternoon flight from Los Angeles with the return departing Liberia in the morning. United will be the sole competitor on the route.

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Southwest Airlines cancels more than 1,000 flights due to ‘disruptive weather’

A Southwest Airlines plane takes off in Phoenix
  • Southwest Airlines canceled more than 1,000 flights on Sunday, leaving customers stranded.
  • The cancellations were caused by air traffic control problems and weather, according to the airline.
  • 1,007 flights were canceled and 383 have been delayed on Sunday, according to the flight tracking website Flight Aware.

Southwest Airlines canceled more than 1,000 flights, leaving hundreds of customers stranded.

The cancellations started on Saturday and went into Sunday and were caused by air traffic control problems and weather, according to a statement released by the airline on Twitter.

1,007 flights were canceled and 383 have been delayed on Sunday morning as of publishing, according to the flight tracking website Flight Aware. 808 flights, nearly 25% of the airline’s total flights that day, were canceled by the airline Saturday. Southwest also experienced almost 1,200 delays on Saturday as well, Flight Aware reported.

“ATC issues and disruptive weather have resulted in a high volume of cancellations throughout the weekend while we work to recover our operation,” Southwest Tweeted on Saturday. “We appreciate your patience as we accommodate affected Customers, and Customer Service wait times are longer than usual.”

However, several Southwest passengers have voiced concerns online that the delays are the result of pilots and crewmembers striking after the airline issued a coronavirus vaccine mandate for its employees. Southwest did not respond to Insider’s request to comment on the claims of the rumored strike online.

Recently airlines like JetBlue, Spirit, and American Airlines have come under fire by customers after issuing mass delays and cancellations in the US. Last month, United Airlines was fined $1.9 million by the Department of Transportation for keeping thousands of passengers stuck on planes for hours, in violation of federal rules, Insider reported. It was the largest penalty of its kind, according to Reuters.

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United is expecting December to be the busiest air travel month in almost 2 years

United Airlines Boeing 737
A United Airlines Boeing 737.

  • United Airlines is expecting December to be its busiest holiday travel month in two years.
  • The airline has scheduled over 3,500 flights daily domestic departures in December.
  • United will offer nearly 70 daily flights to ski destinations, including a new route from California to Aspen.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

United Airlines announced on Thursday that it is planning its largest domestic schedule since 2019 in anticipation of a busy winter travel season.

United Airlines is expecting strong holiday travel this year, with a 16% increase in winter travel searches on its website and mobile app compared to the same time in 2019, according to the carrier. To prepare for the surge in demand, the airline said it has scheduled over 3,500 daily domestic departures this December, which is 91% of the flights offered in 2019.

While the schedule is still subject to change, United said it anticipates the busiest Thanksgiving travel days to be Wednesday, November 24, and Sunday, November 28. Meanwhile, the most popular winter travel days are expected to be Thursday, December 23, and Sunday, January 2.

“We’re seeing a lot of pent-up demand in our data and are offering a December schedule that centers on the two things people want most for the holidays: warm sunshine and fresh snow. We know families and friends are eager to reunite this holiday season, which is why we’re thrilled to add new flights that will help them connect and celebrate together,” said United’s vice president of network planning and scheduling Ankit Gupta.

The airline plans to resume routes it had suspended during the pandemic and introduce new ones, with the intent to connect the Midwest to warm-weather cities as well as offer more service to ski destinations across the US. New service to warm destinations includes direct flights to Las Vegas and Phoenix from Cleveland and Indianapolis to Orlando.

United also plans to resume eight nonstop routes from Midwest cities to Florida, including Tampa, Orlando, Fort Myers, and Fort Lauderdale. The airline is also resuming four popular routes from winter 2020, including Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis, Indiana; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Fort Myers. Overall, the airline will offer up to 195 daily departures to 12 destinations in the Sunshine State, marking the most amount of flights offered to Florida in the company’s history.

Travelers heading to ski destinations will have nearly 70 daily flight options, including a brand new route from John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, California to Aspen. Other popular destinations include Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Steamboat Springs, Colorado; and Bozeman, Montana.

While United’s schedule could be the busiest it has been in over a year, the airline is still not at capacity, and the TSA does not expect to screen as many passengers as it did in 2019.

“While we do expect travel volume to increase during Thanksgiving week, specifically on the Sunday after Thanksgiving (28 Nov) we are not expecting to reach the 2.8+ million number we saw in 2019. Screening times vary for numerous reasons and vary by airport, so it’s almost impossible to give specific screening time predictions. However, we’re very confident that TSA officers will meet the challenge of screening millions of passengers on their way to and from their holiday destinations,” TSA spokesperson Daniel Velez told Insider.

In 2019, the TSA screened over 26 million passengers and flight crews over Thanksgiving from Monday, November 22 to Sunday, December 1, with December 1 being the busiest day in the TSA’s 18-year history, according to the agency. Despite the high volume of travelers, the agency said 99.8% of passengers nationwide waited less than 30 minutes in the security checkpoint line, while 99.2% of those with TSA Pre waited less than 10 minutes.

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2 men are charged with defrauding airlines out of $300,000 in a 5-year lost-luggage scam

baggage luggage conveyer belt
A 2010 photo shows a suitcase in the baggage organization system at Heathrow Airport in London (not the airport mentioned in the story).)

  • Two men are charged with mail fraud after receiving over $300,000 from airlines in a lost luggage scam.
  • Authorities say Pernell Anthony Jones, Jr. used fake identities to purchase flights and falsely claim his luggage was lost.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Two frequent flyers from Louisiana are accused of stealing $300,000 from airlines in an elaborate lost-luggage scam, according to the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Louisiana residents Pernell Anthony Jones Jr., 31, and Donmonick Martin, 29, are charged with claiming over $500,000 in lost luggage claims without ever checking a bag, Jones ran the scheme on over 180 flights in and out of New Orlean’s Louis Armstrong International Airport, fraudulently requesting lost luggage compensation from commercial airlines, including American, Alaska, Southwest, United, and JetBlue. Authorities say Jones requested $550,000 in total compensation and managed to secure $300,000 paid out by carriers.

Both men are charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and mail fraud because they had the checks mailed through the USPS, according to authorities. If convicted, Jones faces up to 20 years and Martin up to five years in jail. US Attorney Duane Evans did not reveal how the pair were caught but emphasized the two are only charged with the crimes and their guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

“We’re pleased the DOJ is pursuing this matter,” an American Airlines spokesperson told Insider.

Southwest declined to comment, while Alaska, United, and JetBlue did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

The DOT’s Air Travel Consumer Report reported US airlines mishandled just 4.11 bags per 1,000 checked in 2020. Of the 209 million bags carried, 5% were never returned to their owners, according to the DOT.

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United is forcing its employees who don’t get vaccinated due to medical or religious reasons to stay home unpaid

united airlines flight
A Boeing 777/200 of United Airlines on July 30, 2020.

  • United Airlines has established a vaccination policy for employees who have requested a medical or religious exemption.
  • The policy forces temporary leave for employees with an approved religious or medical exemption beginning October 2.
  • Front-facing employees who have a denied exemption and do not get vaccinated will be separated from the company.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

United Airlines has strengthened its employee vaccination policy, which was already one of the strictest in the industry.

In early August, United announced it would require all employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 25, but pushed that deadline up to September 27 after the FDA fully approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine.

In an email sent to employees Wednesday, United outlined its vaccination policy regarding workers that have applied for medical or religious accommodation. Here’s the update according to United:

  • Front-facing operational workers, including flight attendants, pilots, and airport customer service agents, who have an approved religious exemption will be put on temporary, unpaid leave starting October 2. Those with an approved medical exemption will be put on medical leave consistent with the individual’s collective bargaining agreement on October 2.
  • Front-facing operational employees that have their religious or medical exemption application denied will have five weeks to get fully vaccinated from the date of the denial or be separated from the company according to their CBA. Their first shot must be gotten by September 27.
  • Operational employees with minimal personal interaction, like ramp agents and mechanics, have the same policies as front-facing staff for denied medical and religious exemptions. However, because it is easier to social distance and a lot of the work is done outside, non-front-facing workers with an approved exemption will only remain on unpaid leave until United has established a safety policy for unvaccinated workers, like masks and testing.
  • For non-operational staff, like those who work at headquarters, will follow the same policies as non-front-facing workers. According to United, management employees do not have the option to work from home if they choose to not get the COVID vaccine because most are on a hybrid schedule, meaning they must occasionally report to the office for meetings or other critical work functions.

United explained that the decision to create a strict policy for front-facing workers was because the company does not want to put unvaccinated people in a high contact environment with colleagues and customers. Employees who were put on temporary, unpaid leave will be welcomed back to the company once the pandemic recedes to an acceptable level.

According to United, since its August 6 announcement requiring employees to be vaccinated, over half of its unvaccinated population have gotten the shot.

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Airfare is set to drop this fall and airlines have already started testing cheap pricing on expensive routes

Los Angeles Airport
Great deals on airfare can be had this fall as airlines entice leisure travelers to keep flying.

  • Airlines are bracing for a fall travel season with fewer business travelers after a lucrative summer.
  • Airfares from September to November are expected to be lower than normal as a result.
  • But holiday travel will likely be priced similarly to last year’s levels as leisure demand rebounds.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Travelers who missed the bargain basement pricing of pandemic airfares have another opportunity to get deals on flights this fall.

As the summer comes to a close and leisure travelers hibernate for the fall, airlines are facing a shortage of business travelers that would normally help fill the gap until the Thanksgiving or Christmas travel season. Big corporate spenders including Google are still keeping employees at home and largely holding off on expending travel budgets as the Delta variant plagues the US.

Airfares this season, as a result, are expected to be lower than fall 2019 levels as airlines entice leisure flyers to get back in the air during their off-season.

September may be the cheapest season of the fall, according to the travel data company Hopper. Airfares are estimated to drop 10% into September with the average round-trip flight costing $260 for domestic travel.

Holiday travel may not be as good of a bargain this year, however, as Hopper expects airfares to rise 11% from September levels into December. Average round-trip airfares are expected to be $289 as a result.

“This would make domestic airfare over the holiday season equivalent to summer airfare, similar to what we saw in 2019 and 2020,” Hopper told Insider. Holiday travel spiked in 2020 despite pleas from public health officials about a second wave, with airlines likely estimating similar demand this year.

Travelers looking to head overseas can also expect to spend less on airfare this fall. Hopper estimates September to November airfares will be 15% lower than fall 2019 levels and the average round-trip will be $734.

International round-trips in the fall of 2020, for comparison, averaged $717. Those prices are still lower than the fall 2019 levels when the average airfare was $859 round-trip.

September is also expected to be the cheapest month for international travel of the fall season months. Hopper expects September airfares to be 8% lower than July levels for an average airfare of $700 round-trip.

Travelers may not see deals as good as those in 2020 but cheap airfares can still be had until the winter holiday travel rush.

United Airlines showed just how low airfares can be with $113 round-trip fares between New York City and Los Angeles from late September to November, quickly matched by JetBlue Airways. Even more budget-minded passengers can also find round trips on Spirit Airlines on the same route for under $100.

United, American Airlines, and Hawaiian Airlines are also selling round-trip flights between Los Angeles and Maui, Hawaii for as low as $168.

The cheap flights, however, signal just how bad the fall will be for airlines with fewer business customers. United’s New York-Los Angeles route will be served by a narrow-body Boeing 757 aircraft instead of the premium-configured Boeing 767 aircraft that kicked off the route in March, presumably because business class seats are harder to sell when corporations aren’t footing the bill.

Business travel bookings, however, have been trending upward through the summer and spiked in the week leading up to Labor Day Weekend, according to TripActions data, which the company calls “an encouraging start” to business travel’s recovery.

This fall will be the first since the start of the pandemic when domestic travelers will also not have to worry about regional travel restrictions. Vaccinated travelers have also been given a green light by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to travel within the US.

Unvaccinated travelers, however, are advised by the CDC to take additional measures including getting tested before and after traveling, as well as self-quarantining for seven to 10 days after traveling.

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Southwest Airlines is chartering flights for Afghan evacuees arriving in the US so they can reach their destination cities

People descend the steps of an airplane wearing face masks while one waves to the camera.
Afghan nationals arrive in Belgium after taking a chartered Air Belgium rescue flight.

  • Southwest Airlines said it would charter US domestic flights for evacuees from Afghanistan, per ABC News.
  • The airline said it would fly people arriving in the US to their destination cities from Monday.
  • The DoD has enlisted six commercial airlines to assist its rescue efforts.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Southwest Airlines will begin chartering domestic flights for evacuees arriving in the US from Afghanistan, according to a statement shared with ABC News.

The airline said that it would operate the flights on behalf of the Department of Defense (DoD) starting Monday, and transport Afghan evacuees to their destination cities, per a statement shared by ABC’s Sam Sweeney on Twitter.

“We are proud to support our military’s critical humanitarian airlift mission, and we are grateful to our Employees for demonstrating an eagerness to support these military efforts,” the statement said, per ABC.

The Taliban seized control of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, on August 15, prompting a mass evacuation. The US and other countries have since tried to rescue thousands of their nationals, as well as Afghan refugees.

Kabul airport has been a scene of chaos as desperate Afghans try to flee the country. An Afghan officer was killed in a firefight with “unknown attackers” at the airport on Monday, Germany’s military said.

Read more: The US’ involvement in Afghanistan makes one thing clear: we don’t care about Afghan lives

Southwest said in the statement that it plans to charter four flights on Monday, and a further four on both Tuesday and Wednesday, per ABC. Southwest does not expect its charter flights to disrupt its commercial operations, it said.

The airline said that it would not specify where it was flying people, per ABC.

The DoD announced Sunday that it would enlist six commercial airlines to help with the ongoing rescue efforts in Afghanistan. The department said in a statement that American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines, Omni Air, Hawaiian Airlines, and United Airlines would transport people who had already left the country, and would not fly into Kabul airport.

Southwest did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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United Airlines told its flight attendants not to duct tape unruly passengers, saying most flyers are ‘on their best behavior’

Flight attendant
  • United Airlines has told its flight attendants not to use duct tape to restrain unruly passengers.
  • It reminded staff to de-escalate, adding that there are “designated items” to use instead of tape.
  • Recent viral videos show disorderly American and Frontier Airlines passengers taped to their seats.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

United Airlines has instructed its flight attendants not to use duct tape on disorderly passengers.

John Slater, United’s senior vice president of inflight services, sent a memo to flight attendants on Friday telling them to avoid using tape to restrain unruly passengers.

“Please remember that there are designated items onboard that may be used in difficult situations, and alternative measures such as tape should never be used,” he wrote in the memo, which was viewed by Insider. “The overwhelming majority of our customers have been on their best behavior throughout the pandemic and returned to our flights with confidence and enthusiasm.”

United declined to name the “designated items” to which Slater referred.

The memo referenced recent viral incidents in which disorderly passengers were taped to their seats.

“As you’ve likely seen, a few airlines have recently made news about the way they’ve handled situations onboard,” Slater wrote in the memo. “When things have evolved, you’ve relied on all aspects of inflight safety training, including de-escalation. This professionalism and composure have set us apart from some of our competitors.”

The memo continued with tips for flight attendants to manage chaotic situations onboard.

“Address difficult situations calmly by informing, de-escalating and following our reporting process,” Slater wrote in the memo. “In the event you are unable to reach an agreement with a customer about one of our safety-related policies, you should follow your regular de-escalation and training process and always use your best judgment.”

Read more: Elon Musk is banking on making China being Tesla’s biggest market. These 4 Chinese electric car companies stand in his way.

United says the memo served as a reminder of existing policies, not a notice of a new one.

“These are not new safety policies and this reference was in a weekly memo we distribute to our inflight crews that includes pertinent information like important notices and reminders about standard safety policies,” the airline told Insider.

While United has used duct tape on unruly passengers in at least two situations well before the pandemic, other airlines have used duct tape to restrain disorderly passengers much more recently.

The memo comes after viral videos recently showed unruly passengers being duct-taped to their seats on Frontier and American Airlines flights. On a Frontier Airlines flight last month, a passenger was restrained with duct tape after he punched and groped flight attendants, walked around shirtless, and yelled obscenities, according to police. On an American Airlines flight earlier that month, a viral TikTok video showed a woman duct-taped to her seat after the airline says she attacked flight attendants and tried to open the plane’s front boarding door mid-flight. Last week, a 13-year-old boy on an American Airlines flight was taped to his seat after witnesses say he became physical with his mother and tried to kick out a window.

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