United Airlines Crew Files Wrongful Termination Complaint

Thirteen flight attendants claim they were wrongfully fired after refusing to board a United Airlines flight over safety concerns.

United Airlines Crew Files Wrongful Termination Complaint
Katz, Marshall & Banks

Thirteen United Airlines crew members say they were unfairly fired after raising concerns about a troubling message on the plane's tail.

This is the image crew members took issue with — two faces, one with a seemingly sinister look, and the words "bye bye" written in the oil slick on the plane's tail cone. That's where the plane's auxiliary engine is located. 

Mechanics checked the plane, but the crew also wanted all the 300-plus passengers on board to be taken off and the plane to be searched thoroughly for possible explosives.

The flight attendants say United Airlines refused, so the flight attendants refused to fly. That resulted in the flight being cancelled for lack of crew and, later on, the firing of the crew members for "insubordination." 

The ordeal took place July 14 at the San Francisco International Airport. The plane was set to fly to Hong Kong. 

Crew members say they were already on heightened alert from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) after the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight 370 just months before. (Video via ABC

The crew members' legal group says they should be viewed as whistleblowers in this situation and should be covered by the Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century. That act states employees can't be retaliated against by their employers for reporting "any violation ... of Federal law relating to air carrier safety."

Despite the complaint, United Airlines is defending their decision, saying in a statement"All of FAA's and United's own safety procedures were followed, including a comprehensive safety sweep prior to boarding, and the pilots, mechanics and safety leaders deemed the aircraft entirely safe to fly."

The complaint was filed with the U.S. Department of Labor.

This video includes images from Getty Images and Katz, Marshall, & Banks.