After Rash Of Incidents, United Tells Flight Attendants Not To Duct Tape Passengers

Last month an American Airlines first class passenger was duct taped and gagged after trying to flee the aircraft midflight. Then a Frontier passenger was duct taped after improperly touching flight attendants on board. To complete the trifecta, last week a 13 year old boy was duct taped to hit seat on an American flight from Honolulu to Los Angeles.

Inflight passenger incidents have been at record levels, largely over masks (although these duct tape incidents haven’t been mask-related). United Airlines, which claims its de-escalation procedures have led to a 50% reduction in passenger incidents, has sent a memo to flight attendants reminding them that they are never to duct tape passengers to their seats.

United again explains its de-escalation process and reminds flight attendants that “alternative measures such as tape” should “never” be used because there are already “designated items” onboard to deal with “difficult situations.”

United may be more geared towards emphasizing de-escalation than physical restraint following a review of its procedures after David Dao was dragged off of a United Express flight and bloodied by Chicago Aviation Police after refusing to voluntarily deplane to make room to transport crew after he’d already boarded his flight back in April 2017.

Along some margin, then, it may be safer to fly United – or at least expect to be twist-tied into your seat rather than duct taped.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. If a flight ever had an emergency with a passenger taped to a seat, will there be someone motivated to un-tape them to get them off the plane? I’m surprised the FAA allowed taping passengers to seats.

  2. As a tactic in the flight attendant de-escalation process, United Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Spirit Airlines and, American Airlines have not currently prohibited substituting Super Glue instead of duck tape for passenger restraint or handling irksome pesky passengers.

  3. TBH, it seems like in certain circumstances, duct tape may be preferable to requiring a large passenger to physically restrain someone in their seat, like we’ve seen in other situations.

    But maybe, as someone who’s 6’3″/230, I guess I’d rather not have to do that to one of my fellow passengers (although I would).

  4. I see United as a hostile over priced airline hating customers from the corporate side
    Loved the airline and it’s people through the 90s up to 9-11
    Don’t think they give a rats @s# about passengers just that they don’t face expensive lawsuits Dao style
    Otherwise it wouldn’t surprise me to to see duct tape super crazy glue ropes or floggings onboard to pax rear ends

  5. Now this is an article that I intend to follow it’s comments very closely. I know Dug is.

  6. I say duct tape, super glue, staple them, who cares. If you don’t act like a fool and endanger everyone, you have nothing to worry about.
    Flight attendants are there for our safety, not to coddle spoiled bratty adults or children.

  7. I think the zip ties that are available are sufficient for this use case. I get nervous when the duct tape is employed as a muzzle. It’s fairly easy to interfere with a passenger/patient’s airway, and those using it this way don’t seem to realize that. I shuddered when the tape went over the mouth of the obviously inebriated patient. If he vomited, as this type of patients are wont to do, they could have caused his death.

  8. good for United. Not all airlines are doing this but whoever started it should have been stopped after the first time.
    If airlines aren’t providing appropriately safe restraint devices, then the airline is at fault.

  9. @1KBrad Umm step out of their spitting range? Put one of those face shields on their head? You know stuff that is likely to not result in the death of the passenger.

  10. @Bill:

    Been on an airplane lately?

    They are full. How do you move everyone 10-feet away from the idiot?

    Are airlines carrying spit hoods or face shields? No.

    “Likely” to result in the death of the passenger? Yet none have died so not likely at all.

    And I am less concerned about the idiot than I am about the security of the aircraft and the passengers. He is the one who chose to be an idiot.

    Duct tape the moron.

  11. It’s inexcusable to be using expensive duct tape for anything other than repairing tray tables and seat cushions.

  12. Um Dug, you forgot about leaks in the fuselage…good for that as well. I pretty much agree with all here, but would only add that seats are only one thing to duct tape to…we still have the floor and walls of the bulkhead. At least attached to the seat they are not a danger to others if they come loose during landing….

  13. @1KBrad

    I was going to mention spitting, as having been expectorated upon, I can vouch for the visceral rage it induces. We used something akin to the “cone of shame” vets deploy, but I think a face shield would work.

  14. Agree with extreme danger of aspiration/suffocation if a patient whose mouth is duct taped closed should vomit. However, I’d think duct tape would be more comfortable and less likely to inflict harm, than twist ties.

  15. Perhaps another solution is to make the flight experience less frustrating, so your customers don’t go berserk?

  16. Enough with the Dr. Dao! It was an express carrier, and the Chicago Airport Police. United had a contract with the express carrier, and was not responsible for the incident. Click bait…you can do better, Gary.

  17. Use zip ties. They are easy to cut off and yet will still restrain just about anyone.

  18. Zip ties DO NOT hold a person in a seat!. When a 200lb man is having “issues” due to medication, drugs, etc he needs to be restrained to not only protect others but to protect himself. Zip ties may work like handcuffs but they DO NOT restrain a guy from moving his body putting others into danger. Any person who has worked in the Mental health field knows that “some” people can at times bite, spit, hit and break a caregivers arms , leggs and other bones.

    Duct tape can hold a person in place until that person has had a “cooling off period” and/or their self medication has worked through their system.

    Lets STOP thinking at that Management “Knows what is right” and have a professionally trained person who deals with this every day develope “guidelines” that does not hurt the Passenger NOR the Crew

  19. As a flight attendant…the general public has no idea of what really goes on with some passengers. Drunk and unruly behavior is very common, which we are supposed to control of course. We can barely get people to turn off their devices, or wear masks without controversy. We had to divert an aircraft once in Gander to remove a pax that was drunk, and abusive. We had to use headseats to tie him. The officials came on and drug him down the stairs, as I watched his head hit the stairs a few times… I thought…we are not in America! I have also had fellow colleagues cornered in the galley and had other flight attendants step in to rescue…no support from the outside. Why doesn’t the public quit acting like assholes! And by the way….Dr. Dao rushed passed the the ticket agent after accepting compensation, which caused all of the commotion to begin with. No worries, he is conducting his unethical medical practice, with a lot of extra money. Once again, bad behavior awarded.

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