A family flying out of Nashville International Airport documented their encounter with an airport police officer who was threatening to arrest a group of passengers waiting for details about their delayed Southwest Airlines flight.
“I thought that it would be best to start recording ’cause I wasn’t sure what was going to happen,” said Amani Robinson, who filmed the exchange.
On Christmas Day, Robinson and her mother, Shelley Morrison, were trying to make their flight to Cleveland, Ohio, to be with family.
While inside the terminal, they were approached by a BNA police officer. The video, captured by Robinson, showed the officer saying, “You and her need to leave or you’ll be arrested for trespassing.”
Morrison couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
“You said you’re going to arrest people for trespassing, for being at a ticket counter for a flight?” Morrison asked in the video.
“Yes, if you don’t have a valid ticket, and you’re on the secure side and refuse to leave, you will be arrested,” the officer said in response.
According to a statement released by BNA officials, a Southwest Airlines employee requested for an officer to escort passengers from the C Concourse to the pre-security ticket counter.
“It was absolutely shocking to experience that,” said Morrison. “I think that the comments were meant to strike a chord of fear, and honestly, for a moment, fear rose up, but then a righteous indignation kind of rose up as well.”
The two were at the airport for hours after receiving several notifications that their flight to Ohio was delayed. Morrison and Robinson were among hundreds stuck at the airport, waiting for answers through the winter weather.
“It was bad enough to have the difficulties with travel. We understand we can’t control the weather, but the insult to injury was our treatment by the authorities there at the airport,” explained Morrison.
The officer seen in the video claims the passenger’s flight was canceled, therefore their boarding pass was invalid and they had to leave the secured area. However, Morrison and Robinson say this is false, claiming it wasn’t until a little after 4 a.m. that they found out their flight was officially canceled.
“All the information from Southwest was contrary to what he stated in our first encounter with him,” Morrison said.
BNA officials released a statement on Wednesday explaining why the officer was in the concourse, though it did not address the incident directly.
“The Department of Public Safety at Nashville International Airport® works to ensure the safety of all passengers throughout the airport,” BNA wrote in its statement. “Unfortunately, the recent winter weather disruptions have brought operational challenges to airlines and airports across the country leading to flight delays and cancellations. With the high number of flights impacted at BNA on Sunday evening, travelers were asked to visit the pre-security ticketing counters for help to rebook flights. Southwest Airlines personnel contacted the Airport Communications Center asking that a police officer be dispatched to C-concourse, Gate C-7/9, to escort passengers to the pre-security ticketing counters. We understand and appreciate the frustrations travelers may have, and we are working to provide the best passenger experience for all.”
Morrison told Nexstar’s WKRN she thought the airport’s statement was timely yet incomplete, adding that the officer’s conduct should be addressed appropriately.
By sharing their video, Robinson and Morrison are hoping that others will be encouraged to know their own rights and feel confident in standing up for them.
“I think it was entirely inappropriate and unnecessary,” said Morrison. “For there to be a threat of being arrested, when there was no belligerent behavior, no disrespect towards the officer, or any other officers.”