Airlines have added significant restrictions on flights to & from the DC metro area over the coming week, ahead of the presidential inauguration. This follows some unruly behavior that we saw at airports and on planes around January 6, both before and after the violent riots in DC.
For the coming week we’re seeing airlines add restrictions on flights to & from DC, ranging from banning alcohol onboard to prohibiting the checking of firearms.
Alaska Airlines has just added restrictions for its 31 weekly flights to the DC metro area, and there’s one restriction in particular that caught me off guard.
Alaska Airlines’ restrictions on DC flights
Alaska Airlines has announced that it’s temporarily implementing additional safety measures focused on keeping employees and passengers safe. This policy kicks in as of today (January 15, 2021), and no exact end date has been published. Here’s what the airline is promoting:
- Increasing mask enforcement on the ground and throughout the journey
- Limiting the number of tickets purchased on flights to & from the DC metro area
- Banning checked firearms on flights to the DC metro area
- Requiring that all passengers traveling to & from the DC metro area stay seated one hour after takeoff and one hour before landing
- Adding additional personnel to support compliance
- Preparing procedures to ensure compliance prior to departure and takeoff, and for turn-backs or diversions, should the circumstances warrant
- Introducing a dedicated command center to monitor every phase of the journey and to quickly respond to and resolve any incidents
Alaska Airlines note that it currently has 304 people on its active ban list. All of these restrictions are being added at the same time that the US FAA is threatening to jail or fine anyone who misbehaves on a plane. I’d also expect that federal air marshals are being assigned primarily to DC flights over the coming days.
The temporary restriction that’s most surprising
Most of these restrictions seem reasonable and logical enough. The rule that is catching me and others off guard is the one requiring all passengers to stay seated for the first and last hour of the flight. Why is this so strange?
- This is a restriction that was introduced for a few years after 9/11 for flights to & from DC; however, at the time the rule was just to remain seated for 30 minutes after takeoff and before landing in DC
- In an age of reinforced cockpit doors, what exactly is this intended to stop?
- What’s the logic of the first and last hour, rather than just the hour either arriving into or departing from DC? And what is the fear, that someone plans a hijacking?
I suppose the general concept is that the more people remain seated, the less likely they are to cause trouble and get into confrontations. At the same time, this seems entirely arbitrary, especially since the main implication here is that people won’t be able to use the bathroom.
Passengers might be at a departure gate an hour before departure, then it might take 30 minutes to get to the runway, and then passengers have to stay seated for an hour. It’s reasonable that people might have to use the bathrooms during that phase of flight, which is also why this seems a bit unreasonable, as I’m not sure what problem this is intended to address.
All that being said, my conclusion here isn’t “governments around the world are coming together to fully control their citizens and take away all freedoms.”
Hopefully this is just a temporary policy, unlike the liquids ban, or how we have to take shoes off at security, both of which started as temporary measures, but are still around.
Airlines are introducing a variety of restrictions on DC flights. Arguably the most interesting restriction is from Alaska Airlines, which will require passengers to remain seated for the first and last hour of the flight.
This does make you wonder exactly what problem Alaska Airlines is trying to address here. If there were credible evidence suggesting there was a planned hijacking, or something, then you’d think this policy would be mandated federally, rather than by an airline.
What do you make of Alaska Airlines’ forced seating policy on DC flights?