American, United and Frontier airlines vowed Wednesday not to cooperate with President Donald Trump’s policy of separating migrant children from their families — provoking an unusually sharp rebuke from the Department of Homeland Security.
Southwest Airlines later said it too wants nothing to do with Trump’s widely condemned handling of children seized at the U.S.-Mexico border.
American and United both said they were asking the federal government not to use their planes to transport children who have been taken from their parents under the new policy. Frontier said it will not “knowingly” allow its aircraft to be used for that purpose.
“We bring families together, not apart,” American said, adding: “We have no desire to be associated with separating families, or worse, to profit from it.”
In a similar statement, United CEO Oscar Munoz said: “Our company’s shared purpose is to connect people and unite the world. This policy and its impact on thousands of children is in deep conflict with that mission and we want no part of it.”
DHS spokesman Tyler Houlton fired backed with a statement and tweet-storm accusing the airlines of “buckling to a false media narrative.”
“It’s unfortunate that @AmericanAir , @united, and @FlyFrontier no longer want to partner with the brave men and women of DHS to protect the traveling public, combat human trafficking, and to swiftly reunite unaccompanied illegal immigrant children with their families,” Houlton wrote. “Despite being provided facts on this issue, these airlines clearly do not understand our immigration laws and the long-standing devastating loopholes that have caused the crisis at our southern border.”
The back-and-forth — playing out shortly before Trump announced he would end the separation policy — was yet another example of corporations distancing themselves from the administration’s practice of seizing and caging children at the border. Two days earlier, Microsoft called itself “dismayed” by the policy after taking criticism for its business dealings with DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Two of the airlines balking at cooperating with Trump — American and Southwest — are based in Texas.
The Association of Flight Attendants also distanced itself from Trump’s handling of immigrant children, saying Wednesday that it “condemns any action to purposefully separate children from their parents.”
In its statement on the controversy, American Airlines said it has “no knowledge that the federal government has used American to transport children who have been separated from their parents due to the recent immigration policy, but we would be extremely disappointed to learn that is the case.”
American said it has asked the federal government “to immediately refrain” from using American for such flights.
“We have every expectation the government will comply with our request and we thank them for doing so,” American said.
United also said it doesn’t think children have been transported on its planes. Munoz said his airline has contacted federal officials “to inform them that they should not transport immigrant children on United aircraft who have been separated from their parents.”
Frontier chimed in on Twitter.
“Frontier prides itself on being a family airline and we will not knowingly allow our flights to be used to transport migrant children away from their families,” Frontier wrote. “At this time, we are not aware if Frontier has been used for this purpose.”
And in a statement to POLITICO, Southwest called itself “a company founded on love.”
“While we do not have evidence that tickets purchased for Southwest flights have been utilized to transport detained children, we do not wish to have involvement in the process of separating children from their parents,” the airline said. “Therefore, we appeal to anyone making those types of travel decisions not to utilize Southwest Airlines.”
Rounding out major U.S. airlines, Delta Air Lines chimed in, saying “recent reports of families being separated are disheartening and do not align with Delta’s core values,” though the airline did not go so far as to say it had asked the administration not to use their planes to transport separated children.