U.S. airlines, airports tighten security in DC-area after unrest

Tracy Rucinski

By Tracy Rucinski

(Reuters) -U.S airlines and law enforcement agencies bolstered security at Washington-area airports on Thursday after supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol, and a top lawmaker urged authorities to ban them from flying.

"We already saw reports of ‘unruly mobs’ in air on the way to Washington, D.C.," the Democratic chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Bennie Thompson, said in a statement. "It does not take much imagination to envision how they might act out on their way out of D.C. if allowed to fly unfettered."

He urged the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to add all individuals identified as having entered the Capitol building to a no-fly list.

Earlier, a Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority spokesman said passengers can expect to see an increased law enforcement presence as they travel through airports.

A prominent union leader has also called for the Trump supporters to be barred from commercial flights out of the region.

"Acts against our democracy, our government and the freedom we claim as Americans must disqualify these individuals from the freedom of flight," Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) representing workers at 17 airlines, said in a statement late on Wednesday.

United Airlines, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines said they were working closely with law enforcement agencies to keep people safe and would continue enforcing strict mask policies on flights.

Some flight attendants have expressed concern that protesters would spread COVID-19.

United and American also increased staffing at the area's airports and earlier this week moved their crews away from downtown D.C. hotels.

Southwest Airlines said it was monitoring events and expected customers to adhere to applicable laws, federal air regulations and crew member instructions while traveling.

The TSA, which has authority over U.S. travel security, said late Wednesday it had multiple layers of security in place without providing details.

(Reporting by Tracy Rucinski; additional reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Bernadette Baum, Cynthia Osterman and Lincoln Feast.)