United Airlines warns against duct-taping passengers

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United Airlines is urging its flight crews to avoid using duct-tape to restrain passengers amid an uptick in incidents of unruly behavior.

"Please remember that there are designated items onboard that may be used in difficult situations, and alternative measures such as tape should never be used," United senior vice president for inflight services John Slater told employees in a memo obtained by FOX Business.

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While Slater emphasized that the overwhelming majority of the airline's customers have been on their best behavior throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, he noted that "a few airlines have recently made news about the way they’ve handled situations onboard." 

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Earlier this month, 22-year-old Frontier passenger Max Berry was arrested by Miami-Dade police and charged with three counts of misdemeanor battery after allegedly groping two female flight attendants and punching a male flight attendant during a flight from Philadelphia to Miami. He was later freed on a $1,000 bond. 

According to a Miami-Dade police report, Berry had two drinks while on the Frontier Airlines flight and ordered another drink. He then brushed an empty cup against the backside of a flight attendant, who then told him not to touch her. At some point, Berry spilled a drink on his shirt, went to the bathroom and came out shirtless, the report said. A flight attendant helped him get another shirt from his carry-on.

After walking around the plane for 15 minutes, Berry allegedly grabbed the chests of two female flight attendants. The pair then called over a male flight attendant to watch Berry, who punched the other man in the face, officials said. The flight attendants and nearby passengers restrained Berry in his seat using tape and a seatbelt extender, as seen in a cellphone video taken during the incident.

The flight attendants were initially suspended for failing to follow the "proper policies" for passenger restraint. However, Frontier later clarified that the crewmembers were on paid administrative leave following backlash to the suspension on social media.

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Meanwhile, American Airlines made headlines for a similar duct-tape incidents last week involving a 13-year-old boy and an incident in July involving a woman traveling from Dallas-Fort Worth to Charlotte. 

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"When things have evolved, you’ve relied on all aspects of inflight safety training, including de-escalation. This professionalism and composure have set us apart from some of our competitors," Slater said. "As always, if you see something, continue to say something. This will help to keep you, your colleagues and our customers safe."

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According to the Federal Aviation Administration, there have been a total of 3,889 unruly passenger incidents on flights in 2021 as of Monday, including 2,867 incidents related to masks. 

Consequences for passengers who engage in unruly behavior can include fines from the FAA or prosecution on criminal charges. 

As part of the FAA's reauthorization bill, the agency can propose up to $37,000 per violation for unruly passenger cases. Previously the maximum civil penalty per violation was $25,000.

FOX Business' Julia Musto and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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