A group of United Airlines flight attendants are suing the airline after they were fired when they refused to board a plane with the words 'Bye Bye' written on the aircraft's tail.
The Hong Kong-bound plane was preparing for take off at the San Francisco airport when workers came across the six-inch-tall graffiti on the tail about 30ft off the ground. Someone had written "BYE BYE" above two faces, "one smiling and the other with a more troubling expression that could be described as frowning or devilish", reports the SF Gate.
The 13 former employees have now launched a complaint with the US Occupational Health and Safety Administration over their sacking after the 14 July 2014 incident.
A 26-page complaint filed on Tuesday by the former cabin crew said they refused to fly unless the 300 passengers were taken off the plane while it was searched thoroughly for explosives.
According to gawker.com, the complaint said the crew were worried in the wake of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 four months earlier, and perceived the message as a serious threat.
But, it added, United Airlines refused to deplane Flight 869, and "the ground crew inspected only the auxiliary power unit, or APU, near the drawings, and said it was a 'joke.'"
They are seeking reinstatement of their jobs, back pay, and compensatory damages.
A United spokesman said the airline will defend the lawsuit "vigorously".
Speaking to USA Today, Christen David, a United spokeswoman, said all of the airline's and FAA's safety procedures were followed in the incident and that the plane was deemed "entirely safe to fly."
He added: "Our flight operations, safety and maintenance teams appropriately investigated and determined there was no credible security threat.
"We cannot comment further on the details of this pending litigation, but we intend to defend against it vigorously."
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