Airlines step up security ahead of Biden inauguration

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A person walks at Reagan National Airport ahead of the Thanksgiving vacation in Arlington, the United States, November 25, 2020.

Hannah McKay | Reuters

Airlines and airports are stepping up security ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration next week. The measures follow last week’s violent pro-Trump riot on the U.S. Capitol, an FBI warning of the possibility of armed protests and a series of politically motivated unrest on flights and at airports.

“Reagan National and Dulles International are operating normally, and passengers can expect to see an increased law enforcement presence by the time of the presidential inauguration next week,” said Christina Saull, spokesperson of the Washington Metropolitan Airports Authority.

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The New York and New Jersey Port Authority, which operates the region’s three largest airports, also said it is increasing its police presence there.

United Airlines is increasing staff at Washington DC area airports, including its hub in Dulles, Va., And crews will stay overnight in airport hotels away from the city center until January 21, a spokesperson Leslie Scott said. The Chicago-based airline is working with local and federal law enforcement to determine if further crew accommodation changes are needed, such as with protests in state capitals, Scott said.

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American Airlines is also planning to tighten security measures before the inauguration. Last week, the Fort Worth, Texas-based airline increased airport staff and suspended alcohol service on flights to and from the Washington area, as well as the movement of crews to airport hotels.

Airline unions have expressed safety concerns after several incidents on board in the past eight days. Republican Senator from Utah, Mitt Romney, was heckled and called a traitor on a Delta flight to Washington DC. On an American Airlines flight last week, a passenger projected Trump 2020 onto the wall of a dark cabin as travelers engaged in a heated political argument, shouting and cursing at each other.

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Alaska Airlines announced on Friday that it had banned 14 passengers from a Washington-Seattle flight after refusing to wear masks, an obligation to travel by plane during the pandemic, and having been “rowdy, controversial and harassed our crew members,” a spokesman Ray Lane said. Federal Aviation Administration chief Steve Dickson on Saturday promised heavy penalties, including fines of up to $ 35,000 for unruly passenger behavior.

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