United Airlines Tells Crews Not To Duct-Tape Passengers

United Airlines Tells Crews Not To Duct-Tape Passengers

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Ah, 2021, the year where airlines have to tell flight attendants to stop duct-taping passengers…

United’s duct tape memo to flight attendants

We’ve seen two recent high-profile incidents where passengers were duct-taped to their seats for bad behavior on American Airlines and Frontier Airlines. Now United Airlines has sent a memo to flight attendants telling them not use duct tape as a way of dealing with poorly behaved passengers.

Instead, United Airlines tells flight attendants:

  • To address situations calmly, and to deescalate situations as much as possible
  • There are designated items onboard that could be used in difficult situations that can’t be deescalated
  • To consult United’s safety manual to guide decision-making if a customer isn’t behaving well
  • To complete an incident report in the event things go wrong, with as many details as possible

Why United is more sensitive to duct tape

United Airlines in general has been doing a good job with deescalating inflight incidents, and the airline hasn’t been in the news as much as other airlines for these kinds of things. I suspect that this isn’t a coincidence, and that there’s a reason United is sending out a memo like this.

Almost everyone remembers the incident that happened on United Express 3411 back in 2017, where Dr. Dao was forcibly dragged off a plane. This was seen around the world and got an incredible amount of media attention, and I suspect this was a turning point for the airline. It’s pretty clear that United intentionally does everything it can to avoid a repeat of a situation like that.

Personally I’m conflicted on the use of duct tape to restrain passengers:

  • On the one hand, it seems rather inhumane to duct-tape someone, and it seems like zip-ties can restrain people as much as possible (though often duct tape is used to get people to be quiet)
  • On the other hand, people act like absolute fools, and it seems rather inhumane the way that many passengers choose to treat crews

Bottom line

While other airlines have been in the news for duct-taping passengers who were causing problems, United has specifically told flight attendants not to do this. Rather the airline has told employees to deescalate situations as much as possible, and to use other resources (presumably zip-ties) in situations that can’t otherwise be resolved without a physical intervention.

What do you make of United’s anti-duct tape stance?

(Tip of the hat to Live and Let’s Fly)

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  1. Eve Sheehan

    I don't believe unruly passengers should be duct taped to their seat. That's like Marshall law. Who is deciding this action? One day they may apply the tape so tightly that the person can't breathe...and dies....then who's to blame? That's just not the right way to go....good lord, they may need a bathroom if they're drunk ! Also, where are the air marshalls that are trained in managing problems with passengers. ?

  2. Sick of stupid people.

    I work in healthcare and deal with the same thing...but this happening on a plane buts more then the staff in harms way. The consequences should be put on the person acting a fool, not the staff trying to keep everyone safe.

  3. Cindy Rayburn

    Can a willing passenger, watching it, duct tape the misbehaving passenger? I'm a former flight attendant. Quit 3 months ago. If I see someone hit someone else, especially a crew member, I'm going to help "calm" that unruly passenger.

  4. Becky Sellers

    If the passenger can't behave I say Yes.Remember 9\11?

  5. Melanie

    Typical in our society. The corporate suits who've never done the job tell the people who do the job how to do it. Ridiculous. People who are violent or significantly disrupt travel should be banned from flying.

  6. Regis

    United wants to limit liability, legal e media-wise. Taping a passenger to a seat will trap him and whoever is next to him in case of an evavuation. Taping someone's mouth may cause suffocation. I don't care how verbally abusive one is, nobody has the right to tape anybody's mouth. This is stuff kidnappers do. In my hospital we apply wrist and leg restraints with quick release and spit hoods for unruly patients, which is...

    United wants to limit liability, legal e media-wise. Taping a passenger to a seat will trap him and whoever is next to him in case of an evavuation. Taping someone's mouth may cause suffocation. I don't care how verbally abusive one is, nobody has the right to tape anybody's mouth. This is stuff kidnappers do. In my hospital we apply wrist and leg restraints with quick release and spit hoods for unruly patients, which is sufficient to control the most out of control patients.

  7. INS Vikrant

    Gavin Newsom was allegedly duct taped to his FC seat a few days ago, after acting out and yelling due to his frustrations in being removed from office.

    Total media blackout about it enforced by the Pelosis and Gettys. Stay safe out there.

    1. Eskimo

      You probably have a sick fetish for Gavin Newsom.

      Try call this number 1-800-662-HELP

      You're welcome.

    2. ChrisC

      Take your silly politics some where else.

  8. Charity

    Airline crews are responsible for the safety of those on flight. If you're going to act like a jackass on a plane, then they should be able to use whatever means necessary to keep other passengers safe. Some of these fools definitely need to be duct taped for their asinine behavior, and then banned from ever flying any airline again.

  9. C. Weston

    How are Zip ties going to prevent a crazy person from flailing around? Do you want to be forced to sit next to someone like that?

    Duct tape is the only solution.

  10. Adam Simmons

    I would argue that any reasonable response is acceptable - including duct-taping their mouths!

  11. Miles

    Maybe the airlines need to convert 1 bathroom on board each plane into a padded jail cell.

  12. Eskimo

    I'm waiting to hear what @Elizabeth has to say.

  13. Mary

    Given the reports of how some people act, use duct tape if necessary to restrain them and to shut them up. The flight crew shouldn’t have to put up with physical and verbal abuse and the other 120 passengers shouldn’t have to listen to it. Neither group should be put at risk by some idiot who won’t follow directions. They are all in an aluminum capsule going 400 mph at 30,000 feet. Bad and dangerous...

    Given the reports of how some people act, use duct tape if necessary to restrain them and to shut them up. The flight crew shouldn’t have to put up with physical and verbal abuse and the other 120 passengers shouldn’t have to listen to it. Neither group should be put at risk by some idiot who won’t follow directions. They are all in an aluminum capsule going 400 mph at 30,000 feet. Bad and dangerous place to be misbehaving. Impose heavy fines and ban the miscreants from all airlines to boot. Flying, like driving, is a privilege, not a right. If you’re not up to following the rules, stay home and annoy your family on terra firma.

  14. henare

    Silly flight attendants! Everyone knows that the duct tape is for repairing guitars!

  15. Baldy

    How about a couple ratchet straps instead of duct tape?
    These can quickly be released in case of emergency.
    Zip tie wrists, maybe forearms, ankles (not sure about ankles though if we are actually concerned about the person’s ability to get out of a burning plane or whatever) - then ratchet the offender in their seat.
    Duct tape mouth if warranted.

  16. Arie

    Whenever I'm faced with this type of difficult situation I think what would Macgyver do...oh yeh, duct tape.

  17. Ryan

    It does seem like duct taping someone to a seat would be a safety issue in the event of an emergency given they wouldn't be able to evacuate should the plane have an issue on landing. While unlikely, its not impossible that there could be a situation where everyone needs to get out ASAP and cutting the misbehaving dbag in 38A free from his seat is not likely to be the top priority of crew...

    It does seem like duct taping someone to a seat would be a safety issue in the event of an emergency given they wouldn't be able to evacuate should the plane have an issue on landing. While unlikely, its not impossible that there could be a situation where everyone needs to get out ASAP and cutting the misbehaving dbag in 38A free from his seat is not likely to be the top priority of crew or passengers (also no knifes..) after an emergency landing and the image of everyone else getting out while the pax they taped to their seat burns would be a bad look...

    1. Timtamtrak

      I agree and disagree,,, a highly irrational unrestrained passenger is just as likely to be an impediment to evacuation as a highly irrationally restrained passnger. When someone has completely lost all sense of place and logic it doesn’t matter if they are taped down or not, they are a safety risk to everyone aboard,

  18. Kw

    Hey if you play up at 35000ft I think the other passengers want to see you subdued anyway the crew can .Harsh maybe but no one ever said life's fair ,maybe crew should be equipped with tasers
    CHEERS FROM AUSSIE,S

  19. Dan

    If you are a belligerent passenger who won’t sit down, you lose all rights to a “de-escalation” talk. Some of these people are highly intoxicated or - more and more - under the influence of powerful narcotics. You can be as calm as possible but they won’t listen. It’s in everyone’s safety to restrain them however need be - the other passengers on the flights are thankful. If it were a store on the ground...

    If you are a belligerent passenger who won’t sit down, you lose all rights to a “de-escalation” talk. Some of these people are highly intoxicated or - more and more - under the influence of powerful narcotics. You can be as calm as possible but they won’t listen. It’s in everyone’s safety to restrain them however need be - the other passengers on the flights are thankful. If it were a store on the ground then of course different methods could be utilized but 35,000 feet in the air in a metal tube - there is no wiggle room for this nonsense.

  20. Joe

    In my opinion, flight crews should not have corporate suits in offices who have building security only a phone call away make decisions for them. It should be the captain, air Marshall and/or lead flight attendant making those decisions. Decisions I’m sure will not be made lightly. Unruly passengers should be barred from flying on ANY airline and punishments should be doubled if it happens in the air.

  21. Cabin Crew

    It's because of safety. It's unsafe to secure a disruptive customer to any immovable part of the airplane in case there is an emergency and there is a need to evacuate...this IS NOT FOR BAD PRESS PREVENTION BEN.

    1. aw

      That's nonsensical. If they're being duct-taped, it's because they have created an actual emergency in the cabin. You deal with the first emergency first. You deal with the "theoretical" later emergency later.

  22. RF

    Build a time-out closet and put misbehaving pax in there. Duration depends on the level on infraction and compliance.

    1. Steve

      the closet could be more spacious than some of the new Oasis seats so wouldnt be the worst thing...

  23. Larry Thompson

    Duct taping an out of control person seems appropriate. I see nothing wrong with it. Act like an idiot get treated like one. I don't want my life endangered because some woke nut thinks these raving lunatics shouldn't be restrained. I won't be flying that airline. I'll bet the policy changes after a catastrophic event and they are sued by several hundred passengers for billions of dollars.

  24. James

    I feel like zip-ties and handcuffs are worse than duct-tape. They can potentially be applied quicker, but if someone struggles there is greater chance for injury as they will cut into the skin. Duct tape would distribute the force applied to the restraints over a greater area. Duct tape also would leave residue and get stuck to hair and such. Thus it seems it is a balancing act between safety and convenience. My personal vote...

    I feel like zip-ties and handcuffs are worse than duct-tape. They can potentially be applied quicker, but if someone struggles there is greater chance for injury as they will cut into the skin. Duct tape would distribute the force applied to the restraints over a greater area. Duct tape also would leave residue and get stuck to hair and such. Thus it seems it is a balancing act between safety and convenience. My personal vote is for straight-jackets, but it would be too tough to get them on.

  25. Tortuga

    Every situation seemingly results in a rugby scrum. I propose we put a prop on every flight and be done with it.

  26. Concerned Traveler

    Easy solution…Don’t behave badly and you will not get restrained. Act a fool in public, the crew has to do what’s best overall for everyone onboard.

  27. Steve

    Duct tape and twist ties are not a great solution but neither is an emergency diversion that puts the entire plane and crew at risk not to mention interrupting 150 travel plans and spending tens of thousands on extra fuel. Airlines need alcohol sales to make money, i dont think the duct tape is a problem its just trendy and in the news and we know people act out because it will get them attention and help them go viral.

  28. Never In Doubt

    "Duct tape" may be more social media sensational, but is "zip-tie", "handcuff", "restraining straps" any different? (although they might be more difficult to apply!)

  29. Brian G.

    This is a Virgin Atlantic training video on how passenger restraint is meant to happen:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2uXUtU179gU

    1. Steve from LA

      That video is hilarious. If only all misbehaving passengers were so submissive. Are there any training videos from this century?

    2. Brian G.

      Even in the last century, misbehaving passengers were not submissive.

Featured Comments Load all 37 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Steve

the closet could be more spacious than some of the new Oasis seats so wouldnt be the worst thing...

Joe

In my opinion, flight crews should not have corporate suits in offices who have building security only a phone call away make decisions for them. It should be the captain, air Marshall and/or lead flight attendant making those decisions. Decisions I’m sure will not be made lightly. Unruly passengers should be barred from flying on ANY airline and punishments should be doubled if it happens in the air.

Brian G.

Even in the last century, misbehaving passengers were not submissive.

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