American Airlines has issued a statement defending the actions of a pilot who said he would "put this plane down in the middle of Kansas and dump people off" if they didn’t behave on a flight leaving from Washington D.C. on Friday.
One of the passengers on the flight, which left from Reagan National Airport for Phoenix Sky Harbor in Phoenix, Ariz., had shared video to social media over the weekend showing many of the travelers — several of whom appeared to be wearing red MAGA hats — chanting "USA, USA" during an overhead announcement.
Another video shared to Twitter captures the pilot’s remarks, in which he threatens to "dump" disruptive passengers in Kansas.
"This is the way it's gonna be. Um, it's a four-and-a-half-hour flight out to Phoenix. We'll put this plane down in the middle of Kansas and dump people off — I don't care," the pilot can be heard saying. "That’s… We will do that if that's what it takes. So behave, please."
The woman who uploaded the first video, conservative activist Mindy Robinson, had also suggested in her tweet that the "USA" chants were what prompted the pilot’s reaction, though American Airlines has since suggested that some of the passengers were refusing to comply with the airline’s current mask mandate.
"Prior to departure from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), the pilot onboard flight 1242 made an announcement emphasizing the importance of following crew member instructions and complying with mandatory face-covering policies," a representative for the carrier said in a statement obtained by Fox News.
Robinson herself had also hinted that the passengers chanting "USA" weren’t following "every single rule," which is exactly what is required of commercial airline passengers, per the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the private airline industry itself. Another Twitter user who responded to her video noted this, writing, "It's a private company. You follow their rules, or you don't get their service. That's how free markets work."
Friday’s incident is just one of many instances of airlines responding to disruptive passengers in the wake of rioting at the U.S. Capitol, during which a mob of Trump supporters breached the entrance and stormed the building. Last week, Alaska Airlines banned 14 passengers who refused to wear masks and harassed crew members aboard a flight from DC to Seattle. And on Thursday, American Airlines confirmed that it would no longer be serving alcohol on flights to and from the DC area "as a precautionary measure," just one day after Trump supporters on a flight from Texas to DC clashed with other passengers after landing at Dulles International Airport.
In response to the events of last week, Sara Nelson, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA), has since called for the ban of any persons who participated in the "violent and seditious actions at the Capitol," urging the U.S. government to "disqualify these individuals from the freedom of flight."
In response to AFA-CWA’s concerns, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said on Saturday that the FAA will take "strong enforcement action" against disruptive passengers, "with penalties ranging from monetary fines to jail time."
The same day, the FAA tweeted that such offences could result in fines of up to $35,000.
"Federal law prohibits you from physically assaulting or threatening to physically assault the crew, and anyone else, on an aircraft. You could be subject to fines of up to $35K and imprisonment for such conduct," the FAA tweeted.
This article originally appeared on Fox News