Two major airlines, American and Southwest, postpone plans to resume serving alcohol in flights in an attempt to prevent uncontrolled and sometimes violent behavior by passengers yelling, hitting and yelling at flight attendants. Have given.
The two airlines announced policies this week after the latest attack was widely watched Video In which a woman on a Southwest Airlines flight from Sacramento to San Diego showed a flight attendant punching her in the face.
The flight attendant lost two teeth in the attack, according to his union, and the passenger, identified by police as Viviana Quinonez, 28, Was accused Due to serious bodily injury with battery. The airline said it has also been barred from flying southwest for a lifetime.
It was not immediately clear whether Ms. Quinonez had a lawyer or not, and she did not respond to messages left on Saturday on a number listed under her name.
Since January 1, the Federal Aviation Administration has received approximately 2,500 reports of uncontrolled behavior by passengers, including reports of approximately 1,900 passengers refusing to comply with the report. Federal mandate That they wear masks in planes.
The agency said it did not track reports of unregistered passengers in the past because the numbers had been fairly consistent over the years, but that it began receiving reports of “significant increases” in disruptive behavior in late 2020.
“We haven’t seen anything like it yet,” said Sarah Nelson, the international chair of the Association of Flight Attendants. Said during online meeting Wednesday with federal aviation officials. “We’ve never seen it so bad.”
Southwest Airlines released a statement on Friday, citing “recent industrywide incidents of incidents involving disruptive passengers” as it announced it had resumed plans to serve alcohol on flights.
“We realize that this decision will be disappointing for some customers, but we feel it is now the right decision in the interest of safety and comfort,” the statement said.
American Airlines announced a similar policy on Saturday.
It said liquor sales, which had been suspended in the main cabin since late March 2020, would remain suspended until September 13, when a federal order to allow passengers to wear masks in airplanes, buses and trains is about to expire.
In a memo, American stated that it believed “alcohol can contribute to the unusual behavior of customers and we owe it to our crew which could potentially be a new and stressful situation for our customers” . “
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“In the last one week, we have seen that some of these tensions have caused a deeply disturbing situation on board the aircraft,” the memo said. The memo was released to the American flight attendant on Saturday. “Let me be clear: American Airlines will not tolerate assault or misbehavior with our employees.”
American said alcohol would continue to be served in first class and business class, but only during the flight and not before departure.
Lynn Montgomery, president of the Transport Workers Union Local 556, which represents the flight attendant on Southwest Airlines, urged the airline’s chief executive, Gary Kelly, to stop employees experiencing “misuse”.
“We ask that you take a strong stance to ensure that unruly travelers are not welcome to travel with us, period, full stop,” she wrote A letter On Monday to Mr. Kelly. “Flight crew must feel safe and supported when reporting to work.”
Changes also came after tHe said the FAA On Monday, it proposed fines ranging from $ 9,000 to $ 15,000 for five passengers who exhibited disruptive behavior on flights.
One of those passengers was in the main cabin of a JetBlue flight in February. The FAA stated that he had done obscene things and pushed a flight attendant, who carried champagne and food that was brought in first class by a passenger.
The agency said another passenger on a JetBlue flight in January ignored instructions to stop drinking alcohol and yelled at crew members, as they told him to stop talking on his cellphone.
The FAA said that in January, a passenger from Alaska Airlines pushed a flight attendant, who was walking down the aisle, and the passengers were wearing masks.
FAA Administrator Steve Dixon said in a videotaped statement that the agency has a “zero-tolerance policy” for passengers who cause flight disturbances or fail to follow flight crew instructions.
He said that passengers should wear masks at planes and airports, regardless of vaccination status.
“But it’s not just about face masks,” Mr. Dixon said. “We’ve seen incidents related to alcohol, violence towards flight attendants, and abusive behavior in general.”
He said that those who violate the rules could face fines and jail sentences. As a former commercial airline captain, Mr. Dixon said, he knows that disruptive passengers can pose a security risk.
“Flight is the safest mode of transport,” he said, “and we intend to keep it that way.”