ALPA's Communications Department provides information and support for news media inquiries. An ALPA communications representative can be reached in the Herndon, Va. office at (703) 481-4440.

News Release

Release # 02.002
January 4, 2002

ALPA Supports Full ‘Captains’ Authority’ to Maintain Flight Safety

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA) takes issue with statements made today in the news media by the attorney representing the armed Secret Service agent who was denied boarding on American Flight 363. Although ALPA does not represent the American Airlines pilots, the Association is troubled by the assertion by the plaintiff’s attorney that the American pilot should not have had the authority to deny boarding to the Secret Service agent.

ALPA’s president, Capt Duane Woerth, said, "ALPA believes that the captain of a flight must have full and final authority for all decisions relating to the safety of that flight. The captain is ultimately responsible for the safety of the aircraft and its passengers and crewmembers. I think most passengers would agree that the captain of a commercial airliner must have the final authority to deny boarding for legitimate reasons, such as in the case of Flight 363 where the agent apparently did not have the proper paperwork to allow him to carry a weapon onboard."

Ironically, the FAA is on the verge of implementing a system that uses so-called smart-card technology to accurately and securely identify law enforcement officers who fly on commercial flights. The card contains an embedded microchip that contains information that can be used to verify the identity of the individual.

"The smart-card ID will eliminate any confusion or doubt as to the identity of the holder; and it probably would have avoided this unfortunate incident. The technology is so promising that we have been calling for a similar system to identify airline and airport employees, dubbed the Universal Access System (UAS)," Woerth said.

"Implementing such an access system also would help alleviate the congestion at security checkpoints by streamlining the security process for people whose credentials and identity have already been confirmed. If implemented, the system could even modified for a program to identify "trusted passengers" — those frequent fliers who meet the stringent security requirements and are issued a similar type of microchip ID card," Woerth said.

ALPA, the world’s oldest and largest professional organization of airline pilots, represents 66,000 pilots at 47 carriers in the U.S. and Canada. Visit the ALPA website at


ALPA Contacts: Ron Lovas, John Mazor (703) 481-4440