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Officer threatens to arrest stranded airline passengers for trespassing in viral videos

Viral TikTok videos shows a police officer threatening stranded passengers at Nashville International Airport with arrest if they don't vacate an area.
/ Source: TODAY

The holiday travel woes for a group of passengers on Southwest Airlines appeared to include being told by a police officer they could be arrested for trespassing if their flight got canceled and they refused to leave an area of Nashville International Airport.

A TikTok video shared by passenger and Nashville resident Amani Robinson, 20, shows an officer telling her mother and a fellow group of passengers standing in line on Christmas that they need to leave "or you will be arrested for trespassing."

Robinson and her mother, Shelley Morrison, told NBC News they were trying to travel to Cleveland to see family when they said Southwest alerted them by text message that their flight was delayed. The airline has delayed or canceled thousands of flights during one of the busiest travel times of the year, drawing scrutiny from President Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

Morrison and Robinson told NBC News they waited in line for more than an hour to get an update on their flight status before an announcement was made by a person behind the Southwest Airlines desk that they were calling security.

Robinson then filmed an officer telling people they had to leave and go to the "unsecured side" outside the security checkpoint and talk to Southwest representatives at the ticket counter.

Robinson and her mother said they had not received any confirmation that their flight had been canceled, so as far as they knew they had valid tickets and could remain in that area.

In the TikTok video, the officer says "your ticket just got canceled." He follows by saying Southwest Airlines called the officers in because people are congregating in that area. He then tells Morrison on camera again that she doesn't have a valid ticket because it got canceled, which she disputed because she had not received any confirmation from Southwest Airlines.

He follows by asking Morrison if she is refusing to leave, and she replies that she's just looking for valid information. She and Robinson told NBC News they did not want to leave the ticket area in case their tickets had not been canceled because they didn't want to potentially miss a delayed flight.

In a second TikTok video, the mother and daughter said they got into a second line and the same officer followed them and again told them they had to leave or could be arrested for trespassing.

Morrison and Robinson said they ultimately left the secured ticket area and spent Christmas in the airport because they were rebooked on other flights that ended up being canceled.

The two told NBC News it was not necessary to threaten passengers with arrest for trespassing, and they hope airport officials will address the situation.

Nashville International Airport officials said in a statement Dec. 28 that Southwest Airlines personnel called for a police officer to be dispatched to the concourse "to escort passengers to the pre-security ticketing counters."

"We understand and appreciate the frustrations travelers may have, and we are working to provide the best passenger experience for all," the statement said.

Southwest Airlines did not comment to NBC News, saying in a statement that they did not have any information to authenticate the encounter with the officer.