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Airways and airports enhance safety forward of Biden's inauguration

A person walks at Reagan National Airport prior to Thanksgiving in Arlington, the United States, on Nov. 25, 2020.

Hannah McKay | Reuters

Airlines and airports are stepping up security ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration next week. The measures are the result of last week's violent pro-Trump uprising in the U.S. Capitol, an FBI warning of possible armed protests, and a series of politically motivated civil unrest on flights and airports.

"Reagan National and Dulles International are operating normally, and passengers can expect an increased law enforcement presence until the president's inauguration next week," said Christina Saull, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

The New York and New Jersey Port Authority, which operates the three largest airports in the area, also said it is increasing the police presence there. Los Angeles International Airport "is improving our operational procedures for the upcoming inauguration of the US President in 2021," a spokeswoman told CNBC. "We are ready to respond to anything happening in LAX."

United Airlines will have more employees at airports in the Washington DC area through Jan. 21, including the Dulles, Virginia hub, and crews will stay at airport hotels outside of the city center, said spokeswoman Leslie Scott. The Chicago-based airline is working with local and state law enforcement agencies to determine if any other changes are needed to crew accommodation, such as demonstrations in state capitals, Scott said.

American Airlines also plans to step up security prior to the inauguration. The Fort Worth, Texas-based airline last week added airport staff, discontinued alcohol service on flights to and from the DC area and moved crews to airport hotels.

Airline unions have raised safety concerns following several onboard incidents over the past eight days and following the pro-Trump uprising.

Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney was molested and called on a Delta flight to Washington DC as a traitor. On an American Airlines flight last week, a passenger projected Trump 2020 onto the wall of a darkened cabin as travelers got into a heated political argument and yelled at and verbally abused each other.

Alaska Airlines said Friday it banned 14 passengers from a Washington-to-Seattle flight after refusing to wear masks, a requirement for air travel during the pandemic, and being "vocal, argumentative and harassed our crew members," said Speaker Ray Lane.

Also last week, a video on social media showed Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Being harassed at Reagan National Airport for confirming the November presidential election result.

Steve Dickson, chief of the Federal Aviation Administration, promised harsh penalties on Saturday, including fines of up to $ 35,000 for unruly passenger behavior.

On Monday, top House Democrats called Dickson and the FAA to take further measures to keep airports safe. Democratic Senate Chairman Chuck Schumer on Tuesday called for members of the mob that stormed the US Capitol to be placed on the federal "no-fly" list.

The airlines keep their own lists of travelers banned from their planes and added more than 2,100 people to those lists for failing to comply with pandemic-related mask guidelines.

Airbnb said Wednesday it would cancel and block new reservations in Washington DC during housewarming week. The company said it had already identified "numerous" individuals who were either linked to hate groups or otherwise involved in the riot and banned them from the Airbnb platform.

Hilton said it has no plans to cancel Washington reservations, but it waives housewarming cancellation fees.

"Our hotel teams, especially those in Washington DC, are very experienced and have a long history of successfully managing major public events," said Meg Ryan, spokeswoman for Hilton. "They continue to review the hotel's security procedures and their preparation is well informed and takes into account current events."

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