United Airlines Issues Reminder to Flight Crew Not to Duct Tape Passengers to Their Seats

After several incidents on multiple airlines, United sent out a memo Friday telling employees "alternative measures such as tape should never be used" when restraining unruly passengers

Cabin attendant measuring woman temperature with infrared thermometer
Photo: Getty

United Airlines is reminding its employees never to duct tape passengers to their seats after a string of similar incidents occurred on multiple airlines.

In a Friday memo sent by Senior Vice President of Inflight Services John Slater and obtained by PEOPLE, United employees were reminded of the airline's policy.

"Please remember there are designated items on board that may be used in difficult situations, and alternative measures such as tape should never be used," Slater wrote.

In instances of unruly passenger behavior, crew members were encouraged to "follow your regular de-escalation and training process and always use your best judgment," with Slater suggesting the "huddle process … which involves discussing the situation with the Captain, Customer Service Representative and Ground Security Coordinator for evaluations and solutions."

A United source shared with PEOPLE that the duct tape policy has always been in place and is not a newly instated rule.

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The reminder comes after several airlines have made headlines for their use of duct tape, including Frontier — who restrained a passenger groping flight attendants — and American — who used duct tape to restrain a 13-year-old trying to kick out a window.

The incidents also come amid a surge in reports of unruly flyers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The FAA shared on Twitter earlier this month that they received nearly 4,000 reports of unruly passengers initiated over 650 investigations so far this year.

Cabin attendant measuring woman temperature with infrared thermometer

Slater noted the rise in unruly passengers in his memo, writing, "We closely monitor all customer-related incidents and know that there has been an increase in reports since the beginning of the pandemic. Most of these have been mask-related and addressed with little effort."

According to The Washington Post, United has previously used duct tape to restrain passengers twice: once in 2003, and later in 2008.

While it may seem like an unconventional or extreme method, industry experts say it's not as rare as people may think.

"It's common to use duct tape to secure a person who represents a threat to the flight or others," Jeff Price, professor of aviation management at Metropolitan State University of Denver, told the Post earlier this month.

Thomas Anthony, director of the University of Southern California's Aviation Safety and Security Program, stressed the overall importance of safety on the aircraft.

"In certain circumstances, duct tape may be appropriate ... for the protection of everybody, not only the person who's causing the commotion, but the people on board and the flight crew," he told the outlet.

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