Unruly airline passengers have become even bigger jerks after a year-plus of not flying.
A Southwest Airlines flight attendant was attacked by a passenger over the weekend and lost two teeth in the incident, according to a letter from the flight attendants’s union to the carrier’s CEO. The assault was one of a stunning 477 incidents of “misconduct” recorded by Southwest passengers between April 8 and May 15.
Perhaps even more surprising, that rise in cases comes as the carrier has not yet resumed on-board alcohol sales.
“I write to you today because we cannot tolerate our beloved cohearts being abused in such a manner, and because I am asking for your help and leadership in ending these travesties,” said Lyn Montgomery, president of TWU Local 556, in the letter. “This unprecedented number of incidents has reached an intolerable level, with passenger noncompliance events also becoming more aggressive in nature.”
The passenger in this weekend’s incident was taken into custody upon landing.
The union is asking the carrier to increase the number of federal air marshals on flights and more clearly inform passengers about the ramifications of bad actions, which can range from fines to jail time. It’s also asking for more consistency in company policies, such as not allowing passengers who are removed from a flight to simply board the next one.
“We ask that you take a strong stance to ensure that unruly passengers are not welcome to travel with us. Period. Full stop,” the letter read.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been increasing its enforcement against unruly passengers for several months. Earlier this month, a passenger who refused to wear a mask on a JetBlue flight in February was fined $32,750.
In January, another Southwest passenger who was asked to leave a flight after refusing to wear a mask “called each of the two flight attendants ‘pathetic,’ and hit one of the flight attendants with his bags.” He was fined $16,500.
“The FAA is strictly enforcing a zero-tolerance policy toward passengers who cause disturbances on flights or fail to obey flight crew instructions,” the government agency said.
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