Yesterday a group of teenagers were being escorted without parents onboard an American Airlines flight from McAllen, Texas to Dallas and onward to New York LaGuardia.
Flight crew on the LaGuardia segment expressed concern. Yesterday’s announcements by American, United, and some other airlines (but pointedly not Delta) that they were asking the federal government not to use their aircraft to separate children from their families was largely a reaction to concerns being expressed fly flight attendants. Whatever you think of the immigration issue, you can probably imagine it’s hard for a person who feels like they are personally a part of that separation. Flight attendants were talking about refusing to operate flights.
American decided to delay the flight to investigate. The escorts assured that the children were actually being reunited with families in New York. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was contacted and confirmed this.
It likely didn’t hurt that the CEO of UNICEF USA was onboard the flight from Dallas to New York LaGuardia. She shared this story on Facebook,
Today when American Airlines announced that they would NOT transport children who had been forcibly separated from their families at our border, I was so impressed with their decision to put children first and business second. And tonight I find myself on an AA flight with kids who crossed into our country unaccompanied and are being brought to NYC assisted by Catholic charities.
Our crew held up our departure to ensure the status of these children and not only did a Spanish-speaking member of the crew welcome them but when I offered to pay for meals for them I learned that AA was making food available to them at no cost.
Copyright: andreyuu / 123RF Stock Photo
It’s not clear what American would have done if the children were being sent away from their families. Would they have removed the children who had valid tickets from the flight? If so, on what legal basis?
Passengers are removed from planes all the time without proper cause. While the pilot of an aircraft is more or less like a ship’s captain in his authority, that authority to remove passengers is not actually unlimited. There needs to be a valid basis for the decision, it cannot be arbitrary or contrary to law. It cannot be a discriminatory decision such as one based on race or religion.
Most passengers aren’t in a position to push back. The federal government is the regulator of airlines through its Department of Transportation. At the end of the day the law is likely on the side of the federal government here.