Separated Families Intersecting with Aviation

Separated Families Intersecting with Aviation

June 20, 2018

Flight Attendants are first responders. We take pride in the job we do to connect people, bring families together, and serve as ambassadors of freedom as we fly to every corner of the earth. When we see someone in distress, we want to help. AFA condemns any action to purposefully separate children from their parents.

Flight Attendants are often the first to experience the fallout from a controversial change in social policy as commercial aviation is a microcosm of our communities, bringing together every race, gender, culture and creed in a confined space. Today there is growing public outrage over the new immigration policy that separates children from their parents. This national discussion and response is being felt on our planes and discussed among the crews. Some are struggling with the question of participating in a process that they feel is deeply immoral.

Our union is receiving significant communication from Flight Attendants, the media, and concerned citizens on the question of commercial airlines participating in transport of children to detention centers and away from their families. It is critical that we have accurate information in order to do our jobs. We have asked the airlines to communicate with Flight Attendants so that we know what to expect, whether these children could be on our flights, how we will be notified, what special instructions there may be for care of these children if they are on our flights, and how to respond to passengers asking us questions about the airline’s role, if any, in transporting these children to detention centers away from their parents.

United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz released this statement

“At United Airlines, we have been concerned about reports that commercial airlines have been used to transport immigrant children separated from their parents by a newly implemented immigration enforcement policy. Based on some research we have done internally and public reports, we have not seen evidence these children have been flown on United aircraft.

“Based on our serious concerns about this policy and how it’s in deep conflict with our company’s values, we have contacted federal officials to inform them that they should not transport immigrant children on United aircraft who have been separated from their parents. Our company’s mission is to connect people and unite the world. This policy and its impact on thousands of children is in deep conflict with that mission and we want no part of it.”

American Airlines released this statement:

“The family separation process that has been widely publicized is not at all aligned with the values of American Airlines — we bring families together, not apart. American, like many U.S. airlines, provides travel to the federal government through contracts; however, the government does not disclose information about the nature of the flights it takes or the passengers who are traveling. While we have carried refugees for non-profits and the government, many of whom are being reunited with family or friends, we have no knowledge that the federal government has used American to transport children who have been separated from their parents due to the recent immigration policy, but we would be extremely disappointed to learn that is the case.

We have therefore requested the federal government to immediately refrain from using American for the purpose of transporting children who have been separated from their families due to the current immigration policy. We have no desire to be associated with separating families, or worse, to profit from it. We have every expectation the government will comply with our request and we thank them for doing so.”

Alaska Airlines released this statement:

"At Alaska Airlines, our values guide us to do the right thing. Alaska Airlines does not support the recent immigration policy that separated immigrant children from their families. To our knowledge, we haven't trasnportered any immigrant children who have been separated from their families, and today informed the government that we do not want to do so."

Frontier Airlines released this statement

"Frontier prides itself on being a family airline and we will not knowingly allow our flights to be used to transport migrant children away from their families. At this time, we are not aware if Frontier has been used for this purpose."

Spirit Airlines released this statement

"While we acknowledge a reversal in federal policy, Spirit Airlines' policy has remained the same. We will not knowingly participate in transporting immigrant children away from their parents and families. Our mission is to bring friends and families together."

We applaud the statements made by United, American, Alaska, Frontier and Spirit.

We expect this issue could continue to escalate and tensions rise when passengers or crew experience even the appearance onboard of children separated from their families. This can become a safety and security issue, which makes it all the more important that airlines provide as much information as possible to crews in order to ensure a safe working environment for Flight Attendants and passengers. 

Use Caution with Social Media; Submit Incident Reports to AFA

This issue is being hotly debated on social media. If you experience an incident related to this issue on your flight please refrain from posting to social media. Send reports of the incident to legal@afacwa.org. The reports you send will allow us to follow up appropriately and address any issues.

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