ORLANDO, FL – AirTran Airways issued today the following statement regarding AirTran flight 175 originating at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on January 1, 2009.
At departure time, alert passengers reported to the flight crew what they believed were inappropriate comments allegedly made by one of the passengers onboard. The captain of flight 175 informed the airline that there were two federal air marshals onboard who contacted local and federal law enforcement officials who came to the gate and escorted the individuals in question off the aircraft to ensure they posed no threat to the flight.
After deplaning the remaining passengers and performing a sweep of the aircraft and re-screening of the passengers, crew, bags, and the aircraft, 95 passengers were allowed to reboard the aircraft and nine were detained for interrogation by the local law enforcement officials, the FBI, and the TSA. Flight 175 departed nearly two hours late and arrived safely at its destination.
Later in the day, six of the nine detained passengers approached the customer service counter and asked to be rebooked to Orlando. At the time, the airline had not been notified by the authorities that the passengers were cleared to fly and would not rebook them until receiving said clearance. One passenger in the party became irate and made inappropriate comments. The local law enforcement officials came over and escorted the passengers away from the gate podium.
AirTran Airways complied with all TSA, law enforcement, and Homeland Security directives and had no discretion in the matter. The airline has refunded the air fares of the nine passengers detained for questioning, has agreed to reimburse the passengers for expenses incurred by taking another airline and has also offered to transport the passengers home to Washington, DC, free of charge.
The airlines made the following statements: “We regret that the issue escalated to the heightened security level it did on New Year’s Day, but we trust everyone understands that the security and the safety of our passengers is paramount and cannot be compromised.
We apologize to all of the passengers – to the nine who had to undergo extensive interviews from the authorities and to the 95 who ultimately made the flight. Nobody on Flight 175 reached their destination on time on New Year’s Day, and we regret it.”