Another incident of air rage took place over the weekend in Dallas, and in this case, the flight never even left the ground before police got involved.
A passenger is facing assault charges after getting into an altercation with two operations agents while boarding a Southwest Airlines flight at Love Field in Dallas on Saturday.
According to the Dallas Morning News, the passenger, Arielle Jean Jackson, went to the back of the plane while boarding a flight for New York and got into a verbal altercation with an operations agent, Dallas police said.
Jackson was asked to leave the plane and while she was exiting, police said, she got into another altercation with a second operations agent. Jackson then allegedly punched the second agent in the head.
Jackson, 32, was arrested and charged with aggravated assault. The Southwest employee was taken to the hospital and was released later in the day.
“Southwest Airlines maintains a zero-tolerance policy regarding any type of harassment or assault and fully support our employee as we cooperate with local authorities regarding this unacceptable incident,” Southwest said in a statement to CNN.
Neither Southwest nor the police has said what the argument was about.
The incident is part of a disturbing trend of altercations on airplanes that have skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic. In 2021, there have been more than 5,000 unruly passenger incidents on flights, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The majority have been over mask requirements.
The incidents have included shouting, spitting, and physical altercations. More than 100 have involved assaults, the FAA said. The trend has many in the industry alarmed.
“While keeping the world moving during a pandemic, our nation’s frontline airline workers are now also working long hours at understaffed airports,” Richard Johnson of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers told USA Today. “This latest tragedy speaks to the urgent need for airlines to hire additional staff immediately, especially ahead of the holiday season.”
Staffing is just one issue, he said.
“The rising violence at airports shows that we must finally increase penalties for unruly passengers that assault airline workers, to include federal felony prosecution and ‘no-fly list’ status for passengers that break the law,” added Johnson, whose union represents gate agents.
Congress is looking into the issue and recently held hearings on the subject. According to the Roanoke Times, one flight attendant testified that he comes to work expecting to confront some form of disrespect or rage.
“Our most immediate danger, and our biggest distraction, is the number of incidents we find ourselves having to de-escalate,” he said.