UPDATE 1-Airlines step up precautions ahead of U.S. presidential inauguration

(Adds more background, more airlines)

WASHINGTON/CHICAGO, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Major U.S. airlines are stepping up security measures ahead of next week's presidential inauguration after supporters of President Donald Trump disrupted some flights following violence at the U.S. Capitol last week.

Delta Air Lines has put 880 people on its no-fly list for not complying with its mask requirements and has banned others from flying with the airline for harassing other passengers or unruly behavior related to the U.S. election results, a spokesman said.

Delta Chief Executive Ed Bastian told CNBC Thursday that starting this weekend the airline will bar passengers who are not law enforcement officers from transporting firearms in checked baggage on flights to the Washington, D.C. area through the inauguration.

On Wednesday, U.S. Federal Aviation Administration chief Steve Dickson signed an order directing the agency to take a "zero tolerance policy" after supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump were disruptive on some recent flights.

Dickson told Reuters the FAA’s special emphasis program would last through March 30 and warned disruptive passengers could face up to $35,000 fines and possible jail time. He emphasized the agency will not issue warning letters or negotiate penalties with first-time offenders.

Last week, for example, supporters of Trump heckled Utah Senator Mitt Romney on a Delta flight from Salt Lake City to Washington.

American Airlines Co said it was suspending alcoholic beverage service on flights to and from Washington-area airports from Saturday through Jan. 21 and relocating crew member hotels from downtown to those closer to airports and increasing staffing at D.C. area airports.

American is also "revising pre-departure announcements to further emphasize the importance of following crew member instructions and complying with mandatory face-covering policies."

U.S. airlines and law enforcement agencies have bolstered security at Washington-area airports after last week's events.

The president of a large flight attendants’ union, who has pressed authorities to take strong action against disruptive passengers, applauded the FAA’s stance.

"First strike and you’re out," said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA representing workers at 17 airlines.

Airlines for America President Nick Calio praised "the FAA’s order to implement a more stringent policy regarding unruly passenger behavior."

Alaska Airlines said Friday it banned 14 passengers from future travel with the carrier after "unacceptable" behavior on a flight from Washington Dulles to Seattle. (Reporting by David Shepardson and Tracy Rucinski; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

01/14/2021 15:46

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