The Slatest

Flight Attendants Want No Part in Separating Immigrant Children From Parents

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 11:  An American Airlines aricraft sits at a gate at O'Hare International Airport on May 11, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. Today American Airlines held a ceremony to mark the opening of five new gate at the airport.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
A man walks past an American Airlines plane sitting at the gate at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Flight attendants at major U.S. airlines are weighing in on the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, refusing to work flights that transport immigrant children separated from their families. So far, the outcry has prompted announcements from at least two major U.S. airlines.

Dallas-based flight attendant Hunt Palmquist wrote Tuesday in an article for the Houston Chronicle, “I will no longer be complicit and will walk away from any future flight assignments that try to make me a pawn for this disgusting and deplorable cause.”

Palmquist’s article describes two flights he worked recently  that he says transported ICE agents and migrant children roughly ages 4 to 11 to “relocation” sites in San Antonio and McAllen, Texas.

He recounts, “Since working the two flights, the images of those helpless children have burned into my psyche. The little children whose faces were full of fear, confusion, sadness and exhaustion left me somewhat traumatized as it occurred to me a few weeks later that I might as well have been a collaborator in their transport.”

Palmquist does not specify in his article what U.S. airline he works for. He also does not say exactly when the flights occurred.

Palmquist is not alone in his concern. He says fellow flight attendants “have pledged to do the same.” And his account comes just days after a viral Facebook post, allegedly written by a flight attendant, that describes a June 14 flight from Arizona to Miami transporting 16 ”sweet innocent children, dressed as criminals.”

The details surrounding that post are still murky. The Association of Flight Attendants–CWA, a flight attendant union, said it confirmed the post was authentic and written by a flight attendant. American Airlines, the “likely airline,” according to USA Today, said it could not confirm the accuracy of the post.

In a similar post Wednesday, flight attendant Ian Funderburg, identifying himself as an employee of American, recalled “the displeasure of transporting eight young boys” on a recent flight from Dallas to Miami, saying, “Knowing that I was transporting innocent children to their detention and possible deportation goes against every moral fiber in my body.” His story also has not been officially verified as involving children separated from their parents or conducted by ICE.

Nonetheless, the concern among flight attendants has prompted action from two major airlines, American and United. American Airlines released a statement on Wednesday requesting that the federal government “immediately refrain from using American for the purpose of transporting children who have been separated from their families due to the current immigration policy.” The airline added, “we have no knowledge that the federal government has used American to transport children who have been separated from their parents due to the recent immigration policy.”

United Airlines tweeted on Wednesday, “we have contacted federal officials to inform them that they should not transport immigrant children on United aircraft who have been separated from their parents.” The statement also says that based on internal research and public reports, “we have not seen evidence these children have been flown on United aircraft.”

The Association of Flight Attendants–CWA also weighed in with a statement on Wednesday, condemning “any action to purposefully separate children from their parents.” The AFA also asked members to “refrain from posting to social media” and to instead submit an incident report to the union’s legal department.