Major airlines ban checked firearms to DC ahead of inauguration

Jan 14, 2021

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At least four major airlines will not allow travelers flying to Washington, D.C.-area airports to travel with firearms in their checked luggage around the inauguration.

Delta Air Lines was first to announce such a move on Thursday morning before being joined later in the day by Alaska Airlines, American and United. The carriers are also implementing other temporary restrictions on flights to the big airports serving the greater D.C. area.

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Delta CEO Ed Bastian told CNBC on Thursday that the airline made the decision in light of last week’s violent raid on the Capitol. The FBI has warned that more attacks are planned in the lead up to and around the Jan. 20 inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

“We’re all on high alert based on the events over the last couple of weeks in Washington,” Bastian said.

Delta’s temporary policy comes into effect on Jan. 16 and will run through Jan. 23. It will only apply to flights to three primary Washington-area airports — Dulles International (IAD), Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) — as well as to nearby Richmond, Virginia (RIC). Members of law enforcement who are carrying an authorized firearm as part of their job will be exempt from the ban.

Related: No-fly lists, security crackdown: Chaos in DC leads to big changes in travel ahead of the inauguration

“Weighing the violence we witnessed in the Capitol last week alongside our unwavering commitment to the safety of customers and our people, Delta will not allow firearms in checked baggage for flights into the D.C. area Saturday, Jan. 16 through Saturday, Jan. 23, with the exception of credentialed law enforcement,” a Delta spokesperson said. “Customers needing to change travel due [to] this policy or requests from officials asking people not to travel to the inauguration, can do so using our flexible change policy. Nothing is more important than doing our part to keep people safe.”

United implemented a similar policy, also running from Jan. 16 through Jan. 23, for the same four airports. Additionally, it will have crew members overnight away from downtown Washington during the period and will increase staffing at the airports “to supplement our frontline teams in remaining vigilant.”

United also reminded flyers of its mask requirements, noting that it added 60 flyers to its no-fly list just last week because of mask-related infractions.

Alaska Airlines’ changes around the inauguration will begin Friday (Jan. 15) and will cover DCA, IAD and BWI airports. Alaska Airlines does not fly to Richmond. Alaska also will boost staff at those airports, highlight enforcement of mask policies and require all passengers on flights to or from those airports to remain in their seats for one hour after takeoff and again before landing.

Further, Alaska said that “to support law enforcement’s calls to avoid travel to the area, we will limit the number of tickets purchased on flights to and from the D.C. metro area.” Alaska did not specify when the temporary measures would end for its D.C.-area flights.

American also will ban checked guns, the Associated Press reported, and is restricting alcohol among its temporary restrictions on flights to the nation’s capital.

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser, as well as Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, have told visitors they should not travel to the D.C. metro area for the inauguration.

On Wednesday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that it’s cracking down on violent, unruly passengers. It said it was making the move following “a disturbing increase in incidents where airline passengers have disrupted flights with threatening or violent behavior.”

Also on Wednesday, Airbnb and its subsidiary HotelTonight announced they would be canceling and blocking all reservations in the D.C. metro area for the inauguration.

The FBI is warning of right-wing extremist groups organizing potential attacks on Washington, D.C., and statues and federal buildings across the country.

Additional reporting by Ben Mutzabaugh, TPG.

Featured photo by Andy Dunaway/USAF via Getty Images.

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