The woes of embattled United Airlines continue, this time with news that codes to gain access to its cockpits may have been made public. The carrier made the announcement on Monday, but it did not quite confirm that a flight attendant accidentally published the codes online that could have resulted in potential threats to air security.
The Wall Street Journal, citing a pilot who was briefed on the matter, reported on Sunday that United Airlines had alerted pilots that access codes to unlock cockpit doors were posted by mistake on a public website by a flight attendant.
A company spokeswoman, Maddle King, said that the airline still could still secure its flight decks through other measures. She declined, however, to elaborate on the other safeguards citing security considerations. She said that what is important is that they are working to resolve the issue as soon as possible.
The matter is even more concerning in light of the lasting horrors of the September 11 attacks which happened almost 16 years ago. Cockpit security became a top priority for airlines in September 2001, when hijackers took control of United and American Airlines planes and crashed them into New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington. There was also a third airliner involved, commandeered by jihadists which crashed in a western Pennsylvania field.
In an email sent to employees, United Airlines told its pilots that until the airline issues new access codes, the pilots would have to visually identify individuals before allowing them in the cockpit.
The United unit of the Airline Pilots Association said in a statement that the inadvertent leak of the crucial information showed the need for stronger protections for flight deck doors.
The union has long been calling for secondary barriers, which would cost $5,000 each, and urged Congress to mandate them. The organization argued that the installation of secondary barriers on all passenger aircraft is a simple and cost-effective way to bolster the last line of flight deck defense.