Thirteen senior United Airlines flight attendants filed a whistleblower complaint Monday with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), alleging they were fired for refusing to staff a Hong Kong-bound plane in San Francisco over security fears.
In their complaint, the airline attendants say they became aware of the threat after one of the airplane’s pilots conducted an external walk-around inspection of the jet and found “threatening words” and “menacing images” drawn in the oil residue covering the plane’s tail cone, including the words “BYE BYE” and a face with a “devilish” expression.
The drawings, the complaint says, could have been made only by someone with security access to the airplane and tarmac and with a special lift to access the tail cone, which is situated 30 feet above ground level.
The airline attendants say the copilot shared photographs of the markings with the flight staff, calling them “disturbing,” which made them too uneasy to fly without a full security inspection of the aircraft being conducted first.
Instead, the flight captain deemed the plane “good to go,” without further inspection. The airline attendants refused to fly and the flight was canceled. The aircraft was also grounded for two days and the cabin crew was fired for insubordination in October.
The complaint states that United should have removed all passengers from the airplane and inspected the aircraft thoroughly to make sure that no explosives had been planted aboard.
“In the interest of maintaining its flight schedule at all costs, United first tried to bully the flight attendants into flying and, when they refused to accede to company threats, accused them of insubordination and fired them all,” the complaint says.
United Airlines maintains that the airplane was “appropriately investigated” and it was determined that there was no “credible security threat” against the Boeing 747, which was to transport some 300 passengers.
The 13 airline attendants seek reinstatement to their jobs, back pay for lost wages, and compensatory damages,
Source: Wall Street Journal