Airlines and airports say they are stepping up security before next week’s presidential inauguration, with Delta and other major airlines saying they will prohibit passengers flying to the Washington area from putting guns in checked bags.
The moves follow the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump and politically tinged confrontations on some flights.
Delta Air Lines was the first to announce Thursday that it will prohibit checking guns to Washington-area airports and was soon followed by United, Alaska and American. All said their bans will start Saturday and run through Inauguration Day until Jan. 23.
"We are all on high alert based on the events over the last couple weeks up in Washington,″ CEO Ed Bastian said Thursday on CNBC.
The airlines also announced other measures. American Airlines is bringing back a ban on serving alcohol on flights to and from the Washington area — flights go dry starting Saturday through next Thursday. Several airlines are moving crews out of downtown Washington hotels for their safety.
Earlier this week, the Federal Aviation Administration announced it will raise enforcement of rules against interfering with or assaulting airline crew members or other passengers. The FAA said that for the next two months it will stop giving warnings to violators and will instead refer their cases to law enforcement for potential charges, fines and jail terms.
FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson cited recent disturbances on planes, adding there has been "a trend after the breach of the Capitol last week."
Key lawmakers and the head of the nation’s largest union of flight attendants have asked the FBI to place Capitol rioters on the federal no-fly list. An FBI official said Tuesday that such a move was being considered. The FBI did not immediately respond Thursday to an update request.
So far, it has fallen on the nation’s airlines to prevent an in-flight incident from getting out of control by threatening to ban people who refuse to wear masks or ignore flight attendants’ orders.
Early last week, several Trump supporters on a Delta flight from Salt Lake City to Washington heckled Sen. Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican who has criticized Trump and voted last year to remove him from office. Bastian said the hecklers were identified with help from airline employees and other passengers.
"There are six people, and they will never fly Delta again," Bastian told The Associated Press. "They have already been notified."