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fly the unfriendly skies

Flight attendants fired after discovering odd drawing on plane, refusing to fly

On Wednesday, 13 flight attendants filed a complaint against United Airlines, saying they were unfairly fired after finding a strange message on the tail of an airplane and refusing to fly.

The crew was heading to Hong Kong from San Francisco when they discovered an odd drawing traced in an oil slick: The words "Bye Bye" with two faces, including one they found to be sinister, the Los Angeles Times reports. The incident took place on July 14, 2014, and the crew said they were on high alert after the disappearance of Malaysia Flight 370 and a TSA warning about laptop and phone bombs.

The flight attendants say they told United they would not feel comfortable flying unless the passengers got off the plane and it was searched for explosives, requests that were denied. A United spokeswoman said the drawings were investigated by three divisions, and all found them to not be a threat. The airline fired the flight attendants on grounds of insubordination, an accusation they deny. "Given the gravity of the risk involved — the lives of passengers and crew alike — we were not willing to bow to United's pressure to ignore an unresolved security threat even though the company made clear that we risked losing our jobs," flight attendant Grace Lam said in a statement.