Delta Follows Southwest In Surprise Social Media Ban

While airplanes have always instructed both passengers and crew members to turn on “airplane mode” during takeoff and landing to prevent interference from signals, the industry is currently in the midst of a very different crackdown.

A year after the the government first started to ban the use of TikTok on its devices, the clampdown has also come for contractors used by the government — many of which are some of the country’s biggest airlines.

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Over the July 1-2 weekend, multiple Delta Airlines  (DAL) – Get Free Report employees reported receiving a company memo telling them that they cannot have TikTok or any other application made by China-based tech company ByteDance not just on airline-issued devices but also on any personal gadget that they use to access the airline’s inner systems.

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Airlines Are Next In The Government’s TikTok Crackdown

As this applies even to workers’ company emails and in-flight ethernet, no employee will effectively be allowed to have TikTok on their phone. According to a memo first viewed by airline and travel website The Points Guy, workers will have until Friday, July 7 to delete the app from their phone and other gadgets.

Delta’s order comes after a similar guidance issued to employees of Southwest Airlines  (LUV) – Get Free Report. Back in June, the White House updated the “No TikTok on Government Devices” Act, passed in February 2023, to include not just itself but also any contractors that serve the U.S. government or could have access to its data. As most major commercial airlines also charter flights for military and government agencies, the update immediately extended to them.

“As a federal contractor we are required to adhere to this guidance and accordingly, TikTok will be inaccessible via the Southwest network beginning June 28, 2023,” the airline’s memo reads, while also adding that it will “continue to evaluate our policies and procedures to uphold Southwest’s ongoing commitment to compliance and cybersecurity.” 

Many Airlines Could ‘Take Similar Steps To Limit Or Ban The Use Of TikTok’

Unlike with Delta, Southwest’s TikTok ban extends only to airline-issued devices but not personal devices used to access the airline’s internal programs.

Delta’s move is much more sweeping, but given the United States’ worsening relations with China (the ban came into being amid widespread official concerns over ByteDance’s connection to the Chinese government and where the information gathered from the platform could be going) could mean that similar such bans at other airlines could follow very soon.

Amid TikTok’s skyrocketing success over the last five years, certain flight attendants and pilots have reached social media by posting videos of certain on-the-job moments and inside experiences. While this has also provided positive PR for certain smaller airlines, laws around the government’s recent crackdown on TikTok will trump any positive publicity. While not affecting passengers yet, some analysts foresee a future ban that could also make TikTok inaccessible through any in-flight WiFi.

“By implementing this policy, Delta is aligning itself with the government’s requirements and prioritizing data security,” Chris Pohl, a Virgin Atlantic  (VGII)  pilot who gained over 372,000 followers by offering inside commentary on the industry, told airline industry site Simply Flying. “Many companies and organizations have taken similar steps to limit or ban the use of TikTok on work-related devices,” 

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