NASHVILLE, Tenn. — As passengers across the country scramble to rearrange travel plans after Southwest Airlines canceled thousands of flights over the holiday weekend, a video posted online appears to show police officers at one airport threatening to arrest stranded passengers.
The video, which was initially posted to TikTok and has since been shared across multiple social media sites, shows an officer with the Nashville International Airport’s Department of Public Safety telling passengers that they need to move out of the area or be arrested. The passengers who are gathered in the video are passengers of Southwest whose flights were canceled.
In the video, a woman who identifies herself as an attorney asks the officer for clarity about the threat of arrest. The officer explains that because the passengers’ tickets were canceled, they are no longer valid ticket holders and do not have a right to be in the gate area.
In an emailed statement, Nashville International Airport said the officers were at the gate in response to a request by Southwest: “Southwest Airlines personnel contacted the Airport Communications Center asking that a police officer be dispatched … to escort passengers to the pre-security ticketing counters.”
Linsey Simmons, who previously ran for a seat in Congress, shared the video on Twitter and asked for U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg to address the incident.
Buttigieg has been vocal about the need for Southwest Airlines to answer for the air travel disaster, telling PBS, “A majority of their flights are canceled. And it’s led to catastrophic and unacceptable conditions, in terms of what’s happening to employees.”
On Monday, the U.S. Department of Transportation said on Twitter that it would examine whether Southwest’s cancellations “were controllable” and whether the airline is complying with its customer service plan.
In an email, a spokesperson for Southwest said that the airline routinely relies on law enforcement officers to assist with crowd control to ensure the safety of employees and customers.
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