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American Airlines is investigating an unruly and frightening episode on a flight to Washington, D.C., the night before a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol to protest the certification of President-elect Joe Biden's election.

Why it matters: Pilots and flight attendants are trained to keep passengers safe in the air and, since 9/11, to be on the lookout for potential terrorists. But in these extraordinary times, their duties have expanded to include mask enforcement and now, apparently, quelling civil unrest.

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

Driving the news: In a darkened airplane cabin, passengers flying from Dallas to Washington Tuesday evening are heard shouting obscenities at a fellow traveler while a large Trump logo is projected on the plane's ceiling, according to a Tweet posted by independent journalist Maranie Staab.

  • After the cabin lights come on, one man wearing a camouflage cap is clearly heard saying: "These are the guys we came to f--king wipe out."
  • Then a woman, presumably a flight attendant, can be heard over the public address system: "I'm talking to you in the aisle, have a seat please. Now."
  • American Airlines flight 1291 arrived safely at Dulles International Airport (IAD) at 9:36pm ET.

Of note: Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) was heckled on a flight from Salt Lake City to Washington ahead of Wednesday's certification vote.

  • Fellow passengers chanted "Traitor! Traitor! Traitor!" according to one video shared on Twitter.

What they're saying: "At American, safety is our highest priority. We are working closely with local law enforcement and airport authority partners to ensure the safety of our customers and team members on the ground and in the air," the airline said in a statement.

  • "We have also increased staffing at DC-area airports as a precautionary measure and will not be serving alcohol on flights to and from this area.
  • "We will continue to enforce policies that ensure our customers' and team members' safety and wellbeing."

Airline crews want to see the rioters banned from flying.

  • "The mob mentality behavior that took place on several flights to the D.C. area yesterday was unacceptable and threatened the safety and security of every single person onboard. It will not happen again," said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) International, in a statement.
  • "Their violent and seditious actions at the Capitol today create further concern about their departure from the DC area. Acts against our democracy, our government and the freedom we claim as Americans must disqualify these individuals from the freedom of flight."

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Jan 14, 2021 - Science

Blue Origin launches test of its suborbital space system

The New Shepard takes flight. Photo: Blue Origin

Blue Origin's New Shepard space system, designed to one day take paying customers to suborbital space, took flight from Texas on Thursday for an uncrewed test.

Why it matters: The company — founded by Amazon's Jeff Bezos — is inching closer to launching its first customers.

Updated 24 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates

A teacher prepares a hallway barrier to help students maintain social distancing at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 14, 2020. Photo: Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop allocating federal COVID relief funds to schools that don't comply with public health recommendations such as masking, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The Treasury Department said last week that the state would have to pay back the money if Ducey does not redesignate the $173 million programs to ensure they don't "undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."