The confidential codes required to access United Airlines' cockpits have been accidentally leaked to the public in what the airline calls a mistake, rather than a data breach.
On Sunday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the airline sent out a blast alert to employees over the weekend warning them of the inadvertent code leak, caused by a flight attendant who posted the information online.
Within the email sent to employees, the airline said that a "corrective action plan" had been launched, but by following flight deck security procedures already in place the risk of a breach of the flight deck door is "strongly mitigated."
The incident has been reported to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as the use of the cockpit codes could give individuals unauthorized access to pilot compartments, and in today's world of terrorism and the risk of planes being attacked or hijacked, such an information leak could be dangerous to crew and passengers.
United Airlines spokeswoman Maddie King confirmed the issue to CNN, saying that the information was "inadvertently made public." King rejected the idea that the data leak was the result of a cybersecurity breach.
Speaking to CBS News, a pilot said he suspected United Airlines would need to change the code lock on the cockpit doors, but this will likely be time-consuming as they have to be done manually on a plane-by-plane basis.
"The safety of our customers and crew is our top priority and United Airlines utilizes a number of measures to keep our flight decks secure beyond door access information," the company said in a statement. "In the interim, this protocol ensures our cockpits remain secure. We are working to resolve this."
United Airlines has enjoyed little positive press in recent times. After passenger Dr. David Dao was forcibly dragged off a flight to make room for staff in a manner which left him with facial injuries, the airline was forced to apologize and offered what was likely a substantial amount of compensation to prevent the firm being taken to court.