Chicago-based United Airlines is paying to remove a gate from some of its newest planes that's meant to protect the cockpit from intruders, according to the union for its pilots.
United is getting Boeing Co.'s newest plane, the 787, later this year. Those planes were to come with a folding metal gate that blocks the cockpit when the door is open, according to the Air Line Pilots Association. But United is paying extra to have those gates removed, according to a letter from the union to the airline obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday.
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Federal rules do not require the gates, although United has them on its 777s. Most planes flown by U.S. airlines do not have the gates.
Cockpit security became a huge issue because of the hijackings of Sept. 11, 2001, prompting airlines to strengthen all of their cockpit doors.
However, the doors still need to be opened during flights, especially on longer flights when pilots need to use the lavatory or go to bunks while other pilots fly the plane. The secondary barrier blocks access from the passenger cabin to the cockpit even when the door is open.
"It makes no logical sense for a safety and security conscious airline with the history of United to pay for the removal of this device that further protects the flight deck from those with hostile intent," the letter dated Monday said.
United spokeswoman Christen David said secondary barriers are just one component of flight security, and the combination of security measures can vary from one type of plane to the next. She declined to discuss the barriers in detail, but said "we are thorough in carrying out our security responsibilities for every flight. The safety and security of our employees and customers are our top priorities."
United expects to get at least five 787s this year. The airline is part of Chicago-based United Continental Holdings Inc.