Thirteen Flight Attendants who claimed they were fired in retaliation for refusing to fly have been reinstated.
In a joint statement, the attendants and the airline said they entered a private agreement that incorporated reinstatement. Other terms of the agreement were not released.
David Marshall, a partner with the legal firm of Katz, Marshall and Banks, the firm serving the flight attendants, embraced the deal. “The safeguards that federal law provides to airline workers are indispensable to the security of passenger airline operations,” he told a San Francisco newspaper.
In July 2014, the Attendants, all veteran employees, became aware that someone had scribbled threatening words and menacing images in an oil slick on a Boeing 747’s auxillary engine. The Attendants asked that United conduct a complete inspection of the aircraft to make sure no explosives had been placed on the plane.
The airline refused an inspection, and the Attendants declined to fly. Their feelings being that flying may endanger the lives of all crew members and passengers. United termed the refusal to fly “insubordination” and terminated them.
The Attendants claimed that their forced termination was a violation of the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act, a law which protects airline whistleblowers when reporting air safety concerns.
The flight, United 869, was getting ready for its departure when the image and writing were discovered.
One of four pilots on the flight found and recorded the image. Sharing the photograph with the other three pilots, he said he saw a “disturbing picture” on the plane and asked for a visual examination of the turbine compartment.
Eventually, the flight attendants saw the photo. Maintenance workers finished examining the engine compartment but did not inspect other parts of the airplane according to the complaint.
Background of Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act
In September 1991, Continental Express Flight 2574 crashed as it was approaching Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas. All 14 people on board were killed.
The subsequent National Transportation Safety Board investigation and additional comparable accidents brought airline safety culture to the front at the NTSB Summit in 1997.
The summit led to the passage of HR 1000 and enacted on April 5, 2000.
When President Bill Clinton signed the bill, he stated: “Several notable requirements to provide “whistleblower” safeguards will close a possible loophole and address real safety concerns faced today.”