A Southwest Airlines flight attendant lost two teeth after being assaulted by a passenger on a flight last Sunday morning.
“This past weekend, one of our flight attendants was seriously assaulted, resulting in injuries to the face and a loss of two teeth,” Lyn Montgomery, president of transport workers union TWU Local 556, wrote in a letter to Southwest CEO Gary Kelly, USA Today reports. “Unfortunately, this is just one of many occurrences.” She went on to ask for Kelly’s “help and leadership in ending these travesties.’”
Trouble In The Skies
“Our reports indicate that a passenger physically assaulted a Flight Attendant upon landing on Flight #700 from Sacramento to San Diego Sunday morning,” Southwest spokesman Chris Mainz wrote in a statement, NBC 5 (Dallas/Fort Worth) reports. “The passenger repeatedly ignored standard inflight instructions (tray table in upright position, seat belt, etc.) and became verbally and physically abusive upon landing. Law Enforcement Officials were requested to meet the flight upon arrival, and the passenger was taken into custody. We do not condone or tolerate verbal or physical abuse of our Flight Crews, who are responsible for the safety of our passengers.”
This type of behavior is not an isolated event according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Indeed, earlier this week, the FAA reported 2,500 incidents of unruly passengers this year — including 1,900 cases in which passengers refused to wear face masks, which are required by federal rule, NBC 5 DFW reports.
In her letter to Southwest CEO Kelly, Montgomery explained that there were 477 passenger “misconduct incidents” on Southwest alone between April 8 and May 15. “This unprecedented number of incidents has reached an intolerable level, with passenger non-compliance events also becoming more aggressive in nature,’” Montgomery wrote.
The FAA says that passengers who don’t comply with airline rules, which include wearing a face mask at least through September 13, could be fined up to $35,000, be banned from an airline for life, and face criminal charges. The FAA also announced it is seeking civil penalties of $54,500 against five passengers for behavior that ranged from refusing to wear a mask to assaulting flight attendants.
Those charges and fines alone aren’t enough to deter some passenger’s behavior, though, Montgomery wrote in the letter.
“Today’s traveling environment requires a new level of firmness in both tone and direction to ensure proper control in the cabin of our aircraft as the attitudes and behaviors of the flying public have, unfortunately, declined,” Montgomery wrote.
In the letter to Southwest’s CEO, on behalf of TWU, Montgomery proposed Southwest institute a number of changes. They include the following:
First, better inform passengers that the risk from misbehaving on flights can lead to being banned on future Southwest flights, as well as potential fines, criminal charges, and imprisonment. “The flying public needs to understand that egregious behavior will result in being banned from flying with Southwest Airlines,” Montgomery proposed.
Secondly, the airline must be consistent in enforcing its policies.
“No passenger should be removed from one flight only to be permitted to board the very next Southwest Airlines flight after a non-compliance incident,” Montgomery wrote. “We ask that you take a strong stance to ensure that unruly passengers are not welcome to travel with us. Period. Full stop.”
Finally, Montgomery asked that Southwest “demand the U.S. government increase the number of Federal Air Marshals on flights,” and requested that they “get involved and take action” when Southwest crew members are threatened.
For more on the rocky road to reopenings, consider our coverage of fights that forced this Ohio theme park to close early.