United Airlines told its flight attendants not to duct tape unruly passengers, saying most flyers are 'on their best behavior'

·3 min read
Flight attendant
  • United Airlines has told its flight attendants not to use duct tape to restrain unruly passengers.

  • It reminded staff to de-escalate, adding that there are "designated items" to use instead of tape.

  • Recent viral videos show disorderly American and Frontier Airlines passengers taped to their seats.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

United Airlines has instructed its flight attendants not to use duct tape on disorderly passengers.

John Slater, United's senior vice president of inflight services, sent a memo to flight attendants on Friday telling them to avoid using tape to restrain unruly passengers.

"Please remember that there are designated items onboard that may be used in difficult situations, and alternative measures such as tape should never be used," he wrote in the memo, which was viewed by Insider. "The overwhelming majority of our customers have been on their best behavior throughout the pandemic and returned to our flights with confidence and enthusiasm."

United declined to name the "designated items" to which Slater referred.

The memo referenced recent viral incidents in which disorderly passengers were taped to their seats.

"As you've likely seen, a few airlines have recently made news about the way they've handled situations onboard," Slater wrote in the memo. "When things have evolved, you've relied on all aspects of inflight safety training, including de-escalation. This professionalism and composure have set us apart from some of our competitors."

The memo continued with tips for flight attendants to manage chaotic situations onboard.

"Address difficult situations calmly by informing, de-escalating and following our reporting process," Slater wrote in the memo. "In the event you are unable to reach an agreement with a customer about one of our safety-related policies, you should follow your regular de-escalation and training process and always use your best judgment."

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United says the memo served as a reminder of existing policies, not a notice of a new one.

"These are not new safety policies and this reference was in a weekly memo we distribute to our inflight crews that includes pertinent information like important notices and reminders about standard safety policies," the airline told Insider.

While United has used duct tape on unruly passengers in at least two situations well before the pandemic, other airlines have used duct tape to restrain disorderly passengers much more recently.

The memo comes after viral videos recently showed unruly passengers being duct-taped to their seats on Frontier and American Airlines flights. On a Frontier Airlines flight last month, a passenger was restrained with duct tape after he punched and groped flight attendants, walked around shirtless, and yelled obscenities, according to police. On an American Airlines flight earlier that month, a viral TikTok video showed a woman duct-taped to her seat after the airline says she attacked flight attendants and tried to open the plane's front boarding door mid-flight. Last week, a 13-year-old boy on an American Airlines flight was taped to his seat after witnesses say he became physical with his mother and tried to kick out a window.

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