The pilot "made an announcement emphasizing the importance of following crew member instructions," a rep for American Airlines says in a statement

By Jen Juneau and Hannah Chubb
January 12, 2021 12:21 PM
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American Airlines has issued a response after a video began circulating late last week of a pilot saying he would "dump people off" in "the middle of Kansas" during a flight out of Washington, D.C., following the riots at the U.S. Capitol.

In a video shared on Twitter Friday, the pilot's voice can be heard over the aircraft's loudspeaker saying, "This is the way it's gonna be. Um, it's a four-and-a-half-hour flight out to Phoenix. We'll put this plane down in the middle of Kansas and dump people off — I don't care. ... We will do that if that's what it takes. So behave, please."While the exact events leading up to the announcement remain unclear, one Twitter user alleges that the pilot spoke out because people were chanting "Fight for Trump" and "U.S.A." The latter can be seen in a video posted to Twitter.

"Wow. I'm on a plane full of patriots flying from DC to Phoenix and we started chanting 'USA' … and the Captain came on said told us he'd drop us off in Kansas if he had to if we didn't obey their every single rule," tweeted the user who shared the latter video, conservative activist Mindy Robinson.

Airline passengers are required to obey the instructions of the flight crew on board for their safety, and in extreme circumstances, planes may make emergency landings due to an unruly passenger or unsafe conditions.

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American Airlines plane
| Credit: Scott Olson/Getty

Robinson alleged in a separate post that American Airlines was "rude to me on the way too there because of my MAGA hat."

In a statement shared with PEOPLE, a rep for American Airlines says that the company "take(s) the safety of our customers seriously and we value the trust they place in our team to care for them throughout their journey."

"Prior to departure from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), the pilot onboard flight 1242 made an announcement emphasizing the importance of following crew member instructions and complying with mandatory face-covering policies," the rep adds.

Credit: Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty

The American Airlines incident occurred one day after at least 14 passengers on an Alaska Airlines flight from D.C. to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport "harassed" flight crew and refused to wear their masks.

The passengers, who were departing the capital city Thursday evening, "were non-mask compliant, rowdy, argumentative and harassed our crew members," the airline told PEOPLE on Friday morning, adding, "Their behavior was unacceptable." 

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Last Thursday, many airlines with flights traveling to and from the Washington, D.C. area that they would be making changes to ensure the safety of their passengers and staff following the pro-Trump riots at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.

American Airlines, for example, stopped serving alcohol on D.C.-bound flights and increased staff presence in area airports, while United increased staffing and moved its crew members staying overnight in the city out of downtown hotels.

Credit: Hannah Gaber-USA TODAY/Sipa USA

These changes were put in place after videos surfaced on social media of Trump supporters heading to D.C. over the past several days creating unsafe conditions aboard flights. Footage showed individuals harassing passengers (including Senator Mitt Romney) and crew members, refusing to wear masks, and disobeying instructions by flight attendants. In one incident, a passenger was projecting "Trump 2020" on the ceiling of the plane cabin.

In a statement on Wednesday, Sara Nelson, the International President of the Association of Flight Attendants (which represents nearly 50,000 flight attendants at 17 airlines), called for airlines and law enforcement to increase security measures for air travel, noting that "the mob mentality behavior that took place on several flights to the D.C. area [Tuesday] was unacceptable and threatened the safety and security of every single person on board."