Aviation

Southwest flight attendant lost two teeth when assaulted by passenger, union says

Greg Nash

A union representing flight attendants for Southwest Airlines urged the company’s CEO on Tuesday to do more to protect staff from unruly passengers, citing a surge of violent incidents including a man who allegedly assaulted a flight attendant on Sunday, striking them in the face and knocking out two teeth.

In the open letter to CEO Gary Kelly, union President Lyn Montgomery writes that violence and verbal abuse against Southwest flight attendants have “reached an intolerable level.”

“From April 8 to May 15, there were 477 passenger misconduct incidents on Southwest Airlines aircraft. This unprecedented number of incidents has reached an intolerable level, with passenger non-compliance events also becoming more aggressive in nature. This past weekend, one of our Flight Attendants was seriously assaulted, resulting in injuries to the face and a loss of two teeth,” wrote Montgomery.

“Unfortunately, this is just one of many occurrences. 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,” she continued.

The airline responded in a statement to local NBC affiliate KGW8, confirming the Sunday morning incident on Flight 700 from Sacramento to San Diego. The incident ended with the man’s arrest, and neither the union nor Southwest Airlines identified the suspect or victim.

“The passenger repeatedly ignored standard inflight instructions and became verbally and physically abusive upon landing,” a spokesperson told KGW8.

“We do not condone or tolerate verbal or physical abuse of our Flight Crews, who are responsible for the safety of our passengers,” added the company to Fox 5 San Diego.

The letter comes as Southwest is resuming in-flight sales of alcohol on some flights. Alcoholic consumption is seen as a factor in some in-flight altercations between crew and passengers.

The Federal Aviation Authority warned in early May of a rise in the number of unruly passengers on board U.S. flights, while announcing high fines for several instances of such behavior that resulted in criminal prosecution.

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