Flight attendants press White House for exemption from travel ban

Flight attendants press White House for exemption from travel ban

A union group representing flight attendants is calling on the administration to grant airline crew members an exemption from President Trump’s temporary travel ban.

In a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Tuesday, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA urged Secretary John Kelly to immediately exclude flight crew from the new travel restrictions on citizens from seven majority-Muslim nations.

“Some AFA members hold passports from the affected countries and despite having legal status to enter the United States working for one of our airlines, the executive order apparently includes these crewmembers who have served as the critical last line of defense in U.S. aviation security for years,” said Sara Nelson, the organization’s international president, who is also seeking a meeting with Kelly.

“As a result, this [executive order] directly impacts their very livelihood as a flight attendant and jeopardizes their ability to enter the United States while on duty.”

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The letter comes amid reports that Dubai-based Emirates Airlines had to adjust which employees it puts on U.S.-bound flights in order to comply with Trump’s executive order.

The policy bars citizens of Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya and Yemen from entering the U.S. for 90 days. It also indefinitely halts the acceptance of Syrian refugees and pauses the entire refugee resettlement program for 120 days. 

The ban also apparently applies to all pilots and flight attendants from those countries, even though flight crewmembers already need to obtain a special visa in order to enter the U.S. if they aren't citizens and must go through government security clearance.

Emirates emphasized that the impact of the executive order would likely be minimal, since the company employs 23,000 flight attendants and 4,000 pilots from across the world.

But the Association of Flight Attendants worries the policy will “cause the loss of good, well-paying American jobs,” which is why the group is lobbying for an exception to the rule.

The ban, which has been criticized for not being fully vetted before being rolled out, sparked confusion at airports over the weekend as some passengers were detained or denied entry into the U.S., including an Iraqi interpreter who helped the U.S. military and some legal permanent residents. DHS had to eventually clarify that green card holders are exempt from the policy.

Defense Secretary James Mattis reportedly began crafting a list of Iraqis who worked with the U.S. military who he believes should be exempt from the executive order.

“The opportunity for stakeholders, including employers and their labor representatives, to weigh in on federal action in advance is extremely important, since they are able to pose questions and raise concerns about intended and unintended impacts of the action on their operations and affected workers,” Nelson said.