A Southwest Airlines flight attendant lost two teeth on Sunday morning (23 May) after she was hit (attacked) by a passenger. The female passenger didn’t follow standard safety instructions while the aircraft was landing in San Diego, the airline said in a statement.
Upon arrival, the passenger was taken into custody and was arrested for battery causing serious bodily injury, a felony. The crew member was taken to a hospital for treatment.
In an open letter to CEO Gary Kelly, the president of Transport Workers Union Local 556 — the union for Southwest flight attendants — wrote that the Sunday incident was not isolated. There were 477 cases of passenger misconduct on the airline between April 8 and May 15, Lyn Montgomery wrote (see the open letter below)
Warning: distressing footage
I cannot comprehend what goes through anyone’s mind when they think assaulting a flight attendant as acceptable. This lady will be going away for a while I think and not on the trip she envisaged with @SouthwestAir. I hope the crew member is ok. pic.twitter.com/6PsAl0SXMT
— Scott Bateman MBE 💙 (@scottiebateman) May 27, 2021
From April 8 to May 15, there were 477 passenger misconduct incidents on Southwest
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. 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
Today’s traveling environment requires a new level of firmness in both tone and
direction to ensure proper control in the cabin of our aircraft as the attitudes and
behaviors of the flying public have, unfortunately, declined. It must be noted that
Southwest Flight Attendants are doing all they can do to ensure compliance while
creating a safe environment for all passengers and crew, but they also need the support
and tools required to prevent injury to ourselves and others. We ask for your help in
directing Management to support Flight Attendants as they work to maintain order on
the aircraft by giving them the benefit of the doubt. Oftentimes, appropriate actions to
maintain a safe environment have been misconstrued as being unkind or inhospitable.
As alcohol sales are added back into this already volatile environment, you can surely
understand our concern.
As the leader in the airline industry, Southwest Airlines has the responsibility of being
front and center on this matter. Publicly denounce passenger misconduct and
associated disruptive/violent behavior. Inform the public of the consequences for
misconduct and abuse toward our employees. Demonstrate that interference with crew
members’ duties– including intimidation, threats of violence, and outright physical
aggression–will not be tolerated.
One tool to better utilize would be the Southwest Airlines restricted travelers list. The
flying public needs to understand that egregious behavior will result in being banned
from flying with Southwest Airlines. Our airline should deliver education on the
associated civil penalties, criminal charges and possible imprisonment under federal law
for abusers. Passengers who do not comply with regulations and federal mask
mandates cause disruptions to our operations and to our Customers’ travel plans,
resulting in gate returns, flight diversions and delays. Consistency is key to this, as well:
No passenger should be removed from one flight only to be permitted to board the very
next Southwest Airlines flight after a non-compliance incident. We ask that you take a
strong stance to ensure that unruly passengers are not welcome to travel with us,
period, full stop. Flight Crews must feel safe and supported when reporting to work.
We also ask that you demand that the U.S. government increase the number of Federal
Air Marshals (FAM) onboard aircraft to ensure safe travel for all. Request that the Air
Marshals get involved and take action when a threat to a cabin crew member is present.
We know from our colleagues in the industry that this problem is not unique to
Southwest Airlines, so I hope you will bring this matter before Airlines for America (A4A)
to initiate a quick and immediate remedy. We here at TWU Local 556 are willing to work
with you to create this change.
Also, as our Company adds more flights to its schedule—an encouraging sign of an
eventual return to normalcy and profitability—we ask that you and your teams consider
the timing of flights being added to the system. When a large number of pairings are
added after the bidding period, as was done on May 20, it creates a lack of flexibility,
placing undue stress not only on Flight Attendants, but also on the Company’s planning
and scheduling departments. While we work hard to bring back revenue, please think of
your front-line workers and remember that a decision made slightly sooner, combined
with timely notification to the Union, allows for less chaos in the lives of those flying the
line. The last year has brought many unknowns, and much has been out of our control.
Please keep your crews in mind and understand the impact of today’s environment on
our Crews’ working conditions. I ask this to mitigate stress and help ensure properly
crewed aircraft as we welcome more opportunities for Customers to love Southwest
Thank you, Gary, for taking these issues to heart, and for leveraging your leadership
position in the industry to help bring about change for those who are behind your efforts
to make Southwest Airlines successful. Let’s work together to increase personal safety
and security across the industry and bring some stability back to our working lives. From
the workgroup with the opportunity to spend the most amount of time with our
Customers, let’s make that time pleasant, positive and indicative of the Southwest Way.