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Feds: Southwest passenger took alcohol onboard, assaulted attendant


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FILE – This July 17, 2019 file photo shows Southwest Airlines planes at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix. On Nov. 22, 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration proposed that a Southwest passenger be fined $40,623 for their behavior on a flight. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

AP

A Southwest Airlines passenger accused of sexually assaulting a flight attendant faces a proposed fine of $40,823, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

The passenger is also accused of drinking their own alcohol during the flight from San Jose to San Diego and as it was descending to land, smoking pot in the bathroom, the Nov. 22 news release said.

He was arrested at the gate in San Diego on suspicion of public intoxication, and is one of eight that the FAA proposed fining for “alleged alcohol-related unruly behavior,” the release said.

The FAA said the rate of unruly behavior on flights has decreased since it passed a zero-tolerance policy in January, but that “the rate remains too high.”

The proposed fines come as Thanksgiving approaches and as airlines, airports and flight crews prepare for holiday travel to potentially reach pre-pandemic levels.

The agency has received almost 300 reports of alcohol-related disturbances on flights since the beginning of the year. It’s a violation of federal law to consume alcohol on a flight that wasn’t served by a flight attendant.

Earlier this year, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA asked the government, airlines and airports to do more to reduce the number of unruly passenger incidents, USA Today reported. At a Sept. 21 hearing, Sara Nelson, international president of the union, shared proposals with members of Congress on how to curb unruly behavior,including that airports ban sales of to-go alcohol, that airlines share their no-fly lists with one another to keep banned passengers from disturbing more flights, and that passengers with egregious violations face consequences at the federal level.

As of Nov. 16, the FAA had received 5,240 unruly passenger reports overall this year, including 3,728 mask-related incidents, the agency’s website said.

The other fines proposed by the FAA include:

  • $24,000 against a Delta Airlines passenger accused of repeatedly removing his face mask, swearing at other passengers and accusing them of stealing from him, yelling at flight attendants, and standing close to a flight attendant as if he planned to lunge toward her on a March 31 flight from Fort Meyers, Florida to Detroit. The flight crew diverted the flight to Atlanta, Georgia for security reasons and asked law enforcement to meet the plane at the gate. The flight arrived in Detroit 45 minutes late as a result, the agency said.

  • $17,000 against a jetBlue Airlines passenger who is accused of drinking alcohol the airline did not serve to him, urinating on the bathroom floor, verbally abusing the flight crew, and refusing to properly wear a face mask on an April 26 flight from New York to Guayaquil, Ecuador. The flight was diverted to Fort Lauderdale, Florida due to his behavior, the agency said.

  • $16,000 against a Delta Airlines passenger accused of drinking her own mini-bottles of alcohol on a Jan. 24. flight from San Francisco to Atlanta after being told by flight attendants that she was not allowed to. The woman is accused of responding to the flight attendant by pulling down her mask, getting close to the attendant’s face, demanding their name and employee number, and filming the attendant.

  • $34,250 against an American Airlines passenger accused of refusing to wear a mask multiple times, arguing with flight attendants about his alcohol consumption and yelling profanities at attendants on a March 14 flight from Dallas/Fort Worth to Burbank, California. Attendants said the man continued to wear his mask improperly for the rest of the flight.

  • $12,500 against a Southwest Airlines passenger on a flight from Dallas to Fort Lauderdale with a stop in Nashville, Tennessee. The passenger is accused of not wearing a mask properly and bringing his own alcohol on board and mixing it with a soft drink. A flight attendant confiscated the drink, and an operations agent told the man not to drink his own alcohol and to wear a mask properly. The man agreed, but mixed his own alcohol with another soft drink in the bathroom and drank it when flight attendants tried to confiscate it. The passenger was escorted off the plane by law enforcement.

  • $9,000 against a United Airlines passenger on a flight from Chicago to Windsor Locks, Connecticut, accused of shouting profanities at flight attendants when they told him no alcoholic beverages or snacks were available on the flight and repeatedly pulling his mask down. The flight crew requested that law enforcement meet them at the arrival gate.

  • $8,250 against an Allegiant Air passenger flying from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Punta Gorda, Florida. The passenger is accused of removing a bottle of vodka from his bag and sharing it with three other passengers, all of whom ordered Bloody Mary mix and ice during in-flight beverage service. He allegedly became “loud, argumentative and rude” with crew members after his alcohol was confiscated, including by crumpling up a notice warning he received saying that his behavior violated FAA regulations, calling a crew member a vulgar name, and flipping her off.

This story was originally published November 22, 2021 7:45 PM.

Vandana Ravikumar is a McClatchy Real-Time reporter. She grew up in northern Nevada and studied journalism and political science at Arizona State University. Previously, she reported for USA Today, The Dallas Morning News, and Arizona PBS.




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