American Airlines Just Banned a Passenger for Life for Doing This
The airline said that one man won't be able to fly with them ever again.
When it comes to flying, not everything goes. There's a long list of things you're not allowed to do or bring on planes, and certain carriers also have their own restrictions. In 2018, American Airlines banned passengers from bringing smart luggage with lithium-ion battery power banks on flights, and the airline has also temporarily banned alcohol from its flights for the last year amid the COVID pandemic. But ignoring the rules may not just keep you from one flight—it can also result in you being kept off all future flights with the carrier. Read on to find out about the incident that got one American Airlines passenger banned for life.
An American Airlines passenger was banned for life after physically assaulting a flight attendant.
On Oct. 27, a male passenger on an American Airlines flight from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport to John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California, allegedly attacked a female flight attendant, The Washington Post reported. According to American Airlines, the passenger has since been banned for life from the airline and the company has also pursued criminal charges against him.
"The individual involved in this incident will never be allowed to travel with American Airlines in the future, but we will not be satisfied until he has been prosecuted to the full extent of the law," the airline said, per USA Today. "This behavior must stop, and aggressive enforcement and prosecution of the law is the best deterrent."
Julie Hedrick, president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, told The Washington Post that the incident occurred after the flight attendant had bumped the passenger accidentally while moving through the first-class cabin. Despite the flight attendant apologizing, the passenger left his seat, confronted her, and punched her in the face at least twice, according to Hedrick. One passenger on the flight told CBS Los Angeles that the attendant had "blood splattered on the outside of her mask" after the assault.
The airline's CEO condemned the passenger's actions in a video.
According to The Washington Post, the flight had to be diverted to Denver, Colorado, and the passenger was detained. The flight attendant suffered broken bones in her face and had to be hospitalized after the incident, Hedrick said. She has since been released. Doug Parker, the chief executive officer for American Airlines, called the incident "one of the worst displays of unruly behavior" the airline has ever witnessed in an Oct. 28 Instagram video.
"Let me assure you, American Airlines will not tolerate airport or in-flight misconduct of any kind, particularly toward our crew members or airport team," Parker said, adding that the airline is also working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which is authorized to issue fines of up to $50,000 for incidents like this.
There has been a significant increase in unruly passengers this year.
The FAA has reported nearly 5,000 unruly passenger incidents this year, as of Oct. 26. Out of these reports, there have been 923 investigations initiated so far, which is more than six times the number of investigations in 2019 and more than five times those in 2020.
"We've never had passengers assault us like this," Hedrick told The Washington Post. "I think for flight attendants going to work today, the mental exhaustion of 'what am I going to be dealing with?' You just don't know what's going to happen on your flight today."
According to Hedrick, however, the number of incidents involving unruly passengers has declined recently from the peaks it hit during this last summer. Even so, "it doesn't matter when something like this happens," she told The Washington Post.
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American Airlines has banned other passengers for their behavior.
In June 2020, American Airlines temporarily banned a man who refused to wear a face mask, USA Today reported. The passenger will only be permitted to fly with the carrier again once masks are no longer required on board, the airline said. As of right now, the federal mask mandate is set to expire on Jan. 18, 2022, but it has already been extended twice before.
"We are committed to protecting the safety and well-being of our customers and team members, which is why we strengthened enforcement of our policy for required face coverings on board. We expect customers who choose to fly with us to comply with these policies, and if necessary, we will deny future travel for customers who refuse to do so," American Airlines said in a statement at the time, per USA Today.
Many unruly passenger incidents over the last year have been tied to mask requirements. The FAA reported that more than 3,500 of the nearly 5,000 unruly passenger reports from 2021 were mask-related. But some experts worry that the increased rate of problem passengers won't go away when masks do.
"It's not just the masks," Hedrick told The Washington Post. "Our passengers have changed. Their behavior on our flights, the safety of our flight attendants, the safety of our passengers—every day is being threatened here."