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A United Airlines Boeing 737-800 being brought into the maintenance hangar at Washington Dulles International Airport. (Photo: AirlineGeeks)

United Moves Flight Crews Away from Downtown Hotels in Anticipation of Post-Election Civil Protests

Due to fear of civil unrest caused by the Nov. 3 presidential election, United Airlines has made the proactive decision to move flight crews away from downtown hotels, according to a USA Today report. In a letter sent to flight attendants on Friday, the airline said that crews would be moved to airport hotels in “specific cities due to potential disruptions that could impact layovers at these locations.” The action comes as many retailers board up downtown stores in anticipation of post-election protests.

United explained the decision in a letter, saying, “As we approach the 2020 presidential election, there is a possibility of renewed protest activity. We are taking precautionary measures to ensure your safety and rest are met.” The airline further explained to Fox News that the move was also made “to prevent any potential delays of our crewmembers getting to where they need to be on time.” The affected cities include Seattle; Chicago; Denver; Philadelphia; Atlanta; Arlington, Va.; Portland, Ore. and Washington, D.C.

The Chicago-based carrier began moving flight crews on Monday and said it would continue to do so for a week. While changing hotels is not uncommon in the airline industry, it is typically due to weather, large downtown events or transportation issues  — rarely is it due to politically-charged civil unrest.

However, this is not the first time this year that crews had to be moved to different hotels. Over the summer, when the Black Lives Matter protests surged after the murder of George Floyd, a handful of U.S. carriers moved pilots and flight attendants to airport hotels for their safety and rest.

In addition to moving crew hotels, the airline also said it would be moving its network operations center – the building that houses dispatch and other operational departments – to a backup facility outside of downtown Chicago. This will ensure that any post-election activity does not interfere with the carrier’s operation.

As of now, the hotel adjustments are only to last a week, but according to the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, it could be longer. In a letter to members, the union wrote, “there is an ongoing evaluation of security information that has the potential to drive additional changes” and to continue to check their schedules for updated layover information.

What Are Other Airlines Doing?

In an email, Southwest Airlines spokesperson Brian Parrish wrote that the company had not changed crew hotels. However, he explained, “should unrest occur this week, our network operations team will manage any crew hotel needs with Southwest employees’ safety as the number one priority.”

Delta Air Lines also said they have not made hotel changes but would make adjustments as needed. The carrier explained that due to “many safety and security considerations,” the airline would withhold details of location and duration.

Meanwhile, American Airlines spokesperson Anthony Flynn echoed Delta, explaining that hotels had not been changed but would be on an as-needed basis, emphasizing team member safety as the company’s highest priority. 

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