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Their Flights Canceled, Southwest Travelers Were Threatened With Arrest

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It wasn’t the canceled flight on Christmas Day that upset Shelley Morrison essentially the most. It was the police officer threatening to arrest her if she didn’t leave a secure area of the airport.

Ms. Morrison and her three daughters had arrived at Nashville International Airport two hours early on Dec. 25 for his or her Southwest Airlines flight to Cleveland to see family in Ohio.

But because the airline canceled flights across the country, sowing confusion, disappointment and anger amongst hundreds of travelers, Ms. Morrison tried to search out out more details about what was happening together with her flight.

As she waited in line amongst frustrated travelers hoping to talk to an worker at a Southwest gate, an airline worker called security and two law enforcement officials with the airport’s Department of Public Safety showed up, she said.

One officer told the Southwest travelers that they needed to go away “otherwise you’ll be arrested for trespassing,” in accordance with a TikTok video recorded by Ms. Morrison’s daughter, Amani Robinson, 20.

“Go. Without delay,” the officer said. “Everybody to the unsecure side. The ticket counter will assist you with any questions you could have.”

The airport, in an announcement, said its officers were working “to make sure the security of all passengers” as severe winter weather wreaked havoc on holiday air travel.

Ms. Morrison said that text notifications that she had received from Southwest had indicated that her flight was only delayed, not canceled. On the video, she asked the officer directly if he was threatening to arrest people for trespassing.

“Yes,” he said. “For those who don’t have a sound ticket and also you’re on the secured side and refuse to go away, you shall be arrested.”

Ms. Morrison replied: “We do have tickets. We now have valid tickets.”

And the officer said, “Well, in case your ticket is canceled, you now not have a ticket. You understand that, right?”

The officer added that Southwest had called the police because travelers were congregating near a gate that needed to be closed.

Ms. Morrison said that she went to a different line for information when the officer approached her again.

In accordance with a second TikTok video recorded by Ms. Robinson, the officer asked to see her tickets and took them to a Southwest worker, who confirmed that her flight had been canceled. The officer instructed Ms. Morrison once more to go away the secure side of the airport, the video shows.

Ms. Morrison, who’s Black, asked the officer why he selected to stop her and ask her for her tickets, in accordance with the video.

“Is it customary?” she asked him. “Do you stop everybody and check their tickets? Is it customary for the police to stop any and everybody and check their tickets?”

The officer explained that “due to our encounter from earlier, I actually have reasonable suspicion to imagine that your tickets have been canceled, OK? And also you were advised to go away the secured side.”

Ms. Morrison agreed to go away but told the officer, “That is completely inappropriate on Christmas night for people to be asking questions and so that you can threaten to arrest them for trespassing simply for standing in line.”

In its statement on the encounter, which was previously reported by The Tennessean, Nashville International Airport said that after many flights were canceled on Sunday evening, travelers were asked to rebook flights at ticket counters on the opposite side of the safety line.

The statement said that Southwest personnel had contacted the airport’s operations center and asked that a police officer be dispatched to “escort passengers” to those ticket counters.

The airport issued a fresh statement on Friday, saying that airport officials were working with Southwest and other carriers to foster higher communications.

“The extraordinary variety of flight cancellations during the last week caused great stress for our travelers, and included an unlucky incident involving a passenger, airline staff, and a BNA officer,” the statement said. “We’re deeply sorry that this occurred and have taken this case to heart.”

Ms. Morrison said she never made it to Cleveland that day and was still attempting to track down her luggage after she checked it.

She said she had contacted airport officials in regards to the encounter with the police but had yet to receive a response. She said she wants the officer’s behavior to be “addressed” and would really like a public acknowledgment or apology.

“I merely asked questions,” she said. “There’s nothing that might suggest a single mom together with her three kids was a threat, nor was anybody else in that line.”

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