A person walks at Reagan National Airport prior to Thanksgiving in Arlington, the United States, on Nov. 25, 2020.
Hannah McKay | Reuters
Airlines and airports are stepping up security ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration next week. The measures stem from last week’s violent pro-Trump uprising in the U.S. Capitol, an FBI warning of possible armed protests, and a series of politically motivated riots on flights and airports.
“Reagan National and Dulles International are operating normally, and passengers can expect an increased law enforcement presence until the president’s inauguration next week,” said Christina Saull, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
The New York and New Jersey Port Authority, which operates the three largest airports in the area, also said it is increasing the police presence there.
United Airlines is increasing staff at airports in the Washington DC area, including the hub in Dulles, Virginia, and crews will stay in airport hotels outside of the city center through Jan. 21, spokeswoman Leslie Scott said. The Chicago-based airline is working with local and state law enforcement agencies to determine if any other changes are needed to crew accommodation, such as demonstrations in state capitals, Scott said.
American Airlines also plans to tighten security prior to the inauguration. The Fort Worth, Texas-based airline last week added airport staff, discontinued alcohol service on flights to and from the DC area and moved crews to airport hotels.
The airline unions have raised safety concerns following several on-board incidents over the past eight days. Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney has been molested and labeled 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 darkened cabin as travelers got into a heated political argument and yelled at and verbally abused each other.
Alaska Airlines said Friday it banned 14 passengers from a Washington-to-Seattle flight after refusing to wear masks, a requirement for air travel during the pandemic, and being “vocal, argumentative and harassed our crew members,” said Speaker Ray Lane. Steve Dickson, chief of the Federal Aviation Administration, promised harsh penalties on Saturday, including fines of up to $ 35,000 for unruly passenger behavior.