A group of flight attendants are fighting back against United Airlines, claiming they were fired for refusing to fly on an aircraft that had some ominous messages written on it.

The 13 flight attendants wanted additional security checks on the 747 aircraft when they noticed someone had scrawled the words "Bye Bye" and some menacing faces on the exterior of the plane. 

When the request was denied in July, they refused to fly from San Francisco to Hong Kong. The flight was eventually canceled.

Now, they're filing a federal complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). They want their jobs back and for the airline to give them back pay. 

The Chicago Tribune reported:

United spokeswoman Christen David said the airline will defend the litigation "vigorously."

"Our flight operations, safety and maintenance teams appropriately investigated and determined there was no credible security threat," she said. The airline said all its safety procedures as well as those of the Federal Aviation Administration were followed, "including a comprehensive safety sweep prior to boarding."

"The pilots, mechanics and safety leaders deemed the aircraft entirely safe to fly," she said. 

[...]

The flight attendants allege their termination was a violation of a law that protects whistleblowers in the airline industry from retaliation for reporting air safety issues.

A lawyer for the flight attendants argues his clients were simply doing what the public expects them to do.

Jenna Lee got some expert legal opinion on the case from former prosecutor Anna Yum and San Diego prosecutor Wendy Patrick. 

Patrick pointed out that the incident occurred just months after MH370 disappeared and a week after the TSA issued an alert about cell phones possibly being used as explosive devices. 

Yum called the case "very interesting," but said it comes down to who has the authority to make the decision on whether the aircraft is safe.

Yum said that United will argue that they investigate all possible threats and it's not up to the flight attendants to make that call. 

But she pointed out that the case may force the airline to re-examine its policy and evaluate whether it is setting a "bad precedent."

The person responsible for the drawings remains unknown.

Watch the discussion above and let us know what you think.