Connect

Collins Presses Frontier Airlines on Forcing Federal Air Marshal to Remove American Flag Mask

Sep 1, 2020
Press Release

Passengers on the same flights were permitted to wear ‘Black Lives Matter’ face masks

ATLANTA, Ga. – Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) today sent a letter to Frontier Airlines demanding answers after it was reported that a gate agent working at Hartsfield- Jackson International Airport in Atlanta (Hartsfield-Jackson) prohibited a Federal Air Marshal from boarding a Frontier flight until he removed his American flag face covering, claiming other passengers would find his mask “offensive."

"This infringement of a law enforcement officer’s right to free speech was clearly a decision made by one of your gate agents based on their own politics,” he wrote. “This is made even more clear by the fact that many passengers allowed to board the flight in this incident were permitted to wear political face masks, including many wearing ‘Black Lives Matter’ masks."

While Frontier claims they looked into the matter and determined the gate agent “misunderstood” the company’s mask policy, it appears that was not the case. After the gate agent refused to allow the Air Marshal to board the plane, he put on the mask given to him by Frontier but was still prohibited from boarding because he continued wearing his American flag mask on top of the mask provided to him.

"To be clear, no airline should infringe upon a passenger’s First Amendment rights, much less those of a law enforcement officer traveling for the very purpose of protecting your passengers, because other passengers might find their patriotic clothing ‘offensive’,” he continued. “I further request that Frontier Airlines conduct a full personnel investigation into this incident and take any adverse action against the gate agent involved as your company deems necessary to protect the free speech of its passengers from any future politically driven actions of this particular gate agent."

To read the full letter, click here.

September 1, 2020

Mr. Barry L. Biffle
President and Chief Executive Officer 
Frontier Airlines
4545 Airport Way
Denver, CO 80239 

Dear Mr. Biffle, 

I am writing you today regarding a recent incident involving your employees at Hartsfield- Jackson International Airport in Atlanta (Hartsfield-Jackson) on August 23, 2020. As you know, it was recently reported that a gate agent working for Frontier Airlines at Hartsfield-Jackson prohibited a Federal Air Marshal from boarding a Frontier flight until he removed his face covering which was designed with the American flag. A detailed account of this appalling incident was recently provided to you in a letter from Michael McHale, President of the National Association of Police Officers. According to the letter, the Air Marshal involved was informed by a Frontier gate agent that he would not be permitted to board the flight because other passengers would find his American flag mask “offensive.” This infringement of a law enforcement officer’s right to free speech was clearly a decision made by one of your gate agents based on their own politics. This is made even more clear by the fact that many passengers allowed to board the flight in this incident were permitted to wear political face masks, including many wearing “Black Lives Matter” masks. 

While I understand that your company has looked into this matter and determined the gate agent in this case misunderstood your mask policy, that logic simply does not follow when coupled with the Air Marshal’s personal experience. After being refused permission to board the plane, the Air Marshal assigned to protect Frontier’s passengers on this specific flight put on the mask provided to him by your gate agent. Despite this mitigation, he was still prohibited from boarding because he continued wearing his American flag mask on top of the mask provided to him by your gate agent. Assuming your mask policy does not prohibit passengers from wearing two masks, it is clear that your gate agent did not simply misinterpret the policy. They chose to prohibit this passenger from boarding the flight simply because they did not like the content displayed on the Air prohibited from boarding was a Federal Air Marshal fulfilling his duty to keep passengers and crew safe from onboard threats.

In light of this disappointing incident, I request that Frontier Airlines immediately make clear that its policies permit the display of the American flag on clothing and face masks and that no passenger should be denied service because they are honoring the American flag on their clothing. To be clear, no airline should infringe upon a passenger’s First Amendment rights, much less those of a law enforcement officer traveling for the very purpose of protecting your passengers, because other passengers might find their patriotic clothing “offensive”. I further request that Frontier Airlines conduct a full personnel investigation into this incident and take any adverse action against the gate agent involved as your company deems necessary to protect the free speech of its passengers from any future politically driven actions of this particular gate agent. 

America was founded on the principle of freedom, including our First Amendment right to freedom of speech. Generation after generation of brave Americans have fought to defend this freedom for each and every citizen, and it is our collective responsibility, as citizens of good conscience, to protect this founding principle for future generations. I hope Frontier Airlines will work to respect the freedoms we cherish and the bedrock principles that make our nation the best country on earth.

Sincerely,

Doug Collins 
Member of Congress