"Slurring" United Airlines Passenger Nearly Jumps From Emergency Exit
A fellow passenger says the man was angry because he was asked to move out of her assigned seat.
Despite United Airlines' motto, flying the friendly skies was not happening on a Houston-bound red-eye out of San Francisco International Airport early Tuesday morning—let alone sleeping! Any chance of shut-eye for the passengers on the overnight flight literally went out the window after one ticket holder attempted to jump out of the emergency exit doors after an altercation with flight attendants.
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Naya Jimenez, who caught the incident on video, told Eyewitness News, that when she asked a woman who was sitting in her seat to move, her husband got angry and refused to get up and return to their actual assigned seats. When confronted by a gate attendant, Jimenez said the male passenger began slurring his speech. "They had to bring in a gate attendant to try to talk to both of them," she said. "Then, he began slurring his speech a little bit, like, 'Sir, why are you smiling at me?' That's the first thing he said."
As he lashed out he began repeatedly swinging his arms, trying to punch the United employee. Other passengers jumped in and tried to stop him, but this is when Jimenez says he ran to the front of the plane and the situation started to really escalate.
"After he paused for a minute, he ran toward where the pilot was, where the emergency exit doors are, and attempted to open it. (He) successfully opened the emergency exit and was about to jump down," she told Eyewitness News.
Luckily the plane was still grounded, but because it was suspended to reach the boarding gate, the unidentified passenger "would have jumped apparently two stories to the ground," she explained. At this point the staff, along with the help of the passengers who stepped in, were able to get him under control. "The flight attendants just kicked in, and everybody pulled him back to safety," said Jimenez.
In a statement to Eyewitness News, United said that law enforcement was made aware of the situation immediately.
"On Sunday night, our team at San Francisco International Airport immediately contacted law enforcement officials after a customer became disruptive during boarding, the airline said. "We're grateful to our team in San Francisco for their professionalism in this situation and for looking out for the safety of our customers and their fellow United employees."
It's unknown whether the angry passenger is being charged by San Francisco Police.
This is certainly not the first incident in which an unruly passenger has created chaos (and fear) during a flight. Coinciding with the COVID pandemic mask mandates, there was a record number of incidents with abusive passengers in 2021. And although the numbers were down slightly last year, the cases under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is still 470 percent higher than in 2019, Axios reports.
Senator Jack Reed has called it an "epidemic of air rage" and is sponsoring a bipartisan bill that would create a new Transportation Security Administration (TSA) no-fly list just for unruly passengers like the man on this flight.