2 airlines will postpone alcohol sales due to spike in in-flight violence

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Two major airlines, American and Southwest, have postponed plans to reactivate alcohol on flights to stem a wave of rebellious and sometimes violent behavior from passengers pushing, hitting, and yelling at flight attendants.

Both airlines announced their rules this week after the latest attack was filmed on a widely watched video It shows a woman slapping a flight attendant in the face on a Southwest Airlines flight from Sacramento to San Diego on Sunday.

The flight attendant lost two teeth in the attack, according to her union, and the passenger, whom police identified as 28-year-old Vivianne Quinonez, died. charged with a battery, which could result in serious injury. She was also banned from flying southwest for life, the airline said.

It was not immediately clear if Ms Quinonez had a lawyer, and on Saturday she did not respond to messages left at the number listed under her name.

Since January 1, the Federal Aviation Administration has received approximately 2,500 reports of unruly passenger behavior, including approximately 1,900 reports of passengers refusing to comply. federal mandate that they wear masks on planes.

The agency said it has not tracked reports of unruly passengers in the past because the numbers have been fairly stable over the years, but it has started receiving reports of “significant increases” in destructive behavior starting in late 2020.

“We’ve just never seen anything like it,” said Sarah Nelson, international president of the Flight Attendants Association. said during an online meeting with representatives of federal aviation on Wednesday. “We’ve never seen it this bad.”

Southwest Airlines released a statement Friday citing “a recent spike in in-flight misconduct incidents in the industry,” as it announced that it had suspended plans to resume alcohol service on flights.

“We understand that this decision will disappoint some customers, but we believe it is now the right decision in the interests of the safety and comfort of everyone on board,” the statement said.

American Airlines announced a similar policy on Saturday.

It says the sale of alcohol, which has been suspended in the main cabin since late March 2020, will be suspended until September 13, when a federal mandate requiring passengers to wear masks on planes, buses and trains expires.

American memo says it recognizes that “alcohol can contribute to abnormal customer behavior on board, and it is our responsibility to our crew not to exacerbate a situation that may already be new and stressful for our customers.”

“Over the past week, we’ve seen some of these stressors create very unsettling situations on board aircraft,” said a memo sent to American flight attendants on Saturday. “Let me be clear: American Airlines will not tolerate attack or mistreatment of our crews.”

The American said alcohol would still be served in first and business class, but only during the flight, not before departure.

The change comes after Lin Montgomery, president of the local 556 transport workers union, which represents Southwest Airlines’ flight attendants, called on airline CEO Gary Kelly to end the “abuse” faced by employees.

“We ask you to take a firm stand so that undisciplined passengers cannot travel with us, period, point,” she wrote. letter Mr. Kelly on Monday. “Flight crews need to feel safe and supported when going to work.”

Changes also happened after the told the FAA on Monday, it proposed the imposition of fines ranging from $ 9,000 to $ 15,000 for five passengers who displayed destructive behavior on flights.

One of these passengers was on the JetBlue main cabin in February. She shouted obscenities and pushed the flight attendant to collect the champagne and food brought to her by the first class passenger, the FAA reported.

Another passenger on a JetBlue flight in January ignored instructions to stop drinking and yelled at the crew after they told him to stop talking on his cell phone, the agency said.

In January, an Alaska Airlines passenger pushed a flight attendant down the aisle documenting which passengers were wearing masks, the FAA said.

Steve Dixon, the FAA administrator, said in a videotaped statement that the agency has a “zero tolerance policy” for passengers who disrupt flights or disobey flight crew instructions.

Passengers, regardless of vaccination status, must wear masks on planes and at airports, he said.

“But it’s not just about face masks,” Mr. Dixon said. “We have seen incidents involving alcohol, violence against flight attendants and abusive behavior in general.”

Those who break the rules can be sentenced to fines and imprisonment, he said. Mr. Dixon, a former commercial airline captain, said he knows passengers who break the rules can pose a safety risk.

“Flying is the safest way to get around,” he said, “and we intend to continue to stick to it.”



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