By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver
(Denver, Colo.) Some employees at Denver International Airport complain they feel unsafe at work.
One reported being followed to her car and harassed by an angry passenger. Another said having to park in the airport's public economy lot puts their vehicles at risk for vandalism and theft.
According to two flight attendants who did not want their names used out of fear of retaliation from the airport or passengers, five weeks ago, a flight attendant had an unpleasant exchange with a passenger during a flight.
The disgruntled passenger waited and followed the flight attendant to her car after the plane landed. She could have been assaulted but got away, the women said.
Nationally incidents of passengers attacking flight attendants on board have skyrocketed. "Since the FAA started keeping track of reports of incidents like this on board, we've had more events in 2021 than we've had in the entire history of that record-keeping in aviation," Sara Nelson, president of the AFA and a flight attendant for two decades, told ABC News.
But the Denver incident may be the first time a passenger has confronted a flight attendant after the plane landed.
"Employees are forced to park in the east parking lot (also known as the economy lot)," one of the flight attendants said. "It's not a secured parking lot."
Like the flight attendant harassed by the passenger, another flight attendant learned the parking lot was not safe the hard way. While on a trip with her car parked in the east lot, someone stole the catalytic converter.
Due to construction and holiday traffic, employees must park in the east lot, where the public parks. When the flight attendant filed a report about her vandalized car, security and police told her the east lot is not under surveillance, she said.
Minimal surveillance in the east lot
That's not precisely true; airport officials told NewsBreak.
"DEN is working closely with Denver Police Department to patrol our parking areas. We have added security shifts overnight, specifically to patrol the lots," the airport said in a statement.
"Our staff and contractor staff are also patrolling more often during the day. Employees have been reminded if they see something, to say something and utilize the See Say app to report anything suspicious. We encourage passengers to report any suspicious activity as well by using the See Say app or by calling 303-342-4211.
"We do have cameras located in our lots, but due to lot size, we know they do not cover all areas."
Employee: Ticketed area vulnerable
Another DIA flight attendant said earlier this week that the airport has other security problems, too. She said the configuration that allows people to walk in on the sixth floor, plus escalators with access to that floor, makes the ticketed area below vulnerable.
The airport's Great Hall is under renovation for that very reason.
"Now the new contractor wants another billion dollars (to complete the job)," one of the flight attendants said, calling the airport renovation "fiscal irresponsibility."
On Monday, a man managed to run past the security checkpoint and get on a train in the ticketed area. The airport shut down the trains and arrested the man.
Security patrols employee lots
Unlike the east lot, the flight attendants said the employee lots have regular, visible security. Employees also must swipe a badge to get in and out.
The flight attendants explained that the lots are known to employees as "land side" and "air side."
"Air side is very strict. A bus goes to the concourse. Because of the holidays, employees who park on the land side are having to park in the east lot."
When the flight attendant took her damaged car in for repairs, her mechanic said he was surprised the catalytic converter wasn't stolen sooner.
Catalytic converter thefts have been a problem in the Denver metro area and nationally.
The converters work to reduce emissions, but because they contain valuable precious metals, thieves take them.
According to CBS4, Denver Police said thieves target hybrid and high-profile vehicles most.
The flight attendant with the damaged car realizes the situation could have been worse. She wasn't injured but had to pay a $240 deductible on a $1,300 repair.
Still, she worries about the danger to other airport employees who park in the east lot.
"If you had a woman in your life, how would you feel that there's no security at all out here?"