Nov 14, 2021 - Economy & Business

Southwest employee hospitalized after altercation with unruly passenger

Southwest airplane

Photo: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A Southwest Airlines employee has been hospitalized after being allegedly "verbally and physically" assaulted by an unruly passenger Saturday afternoon, the airline confirmed to Axios.

Why it matters: Incidences involving unruly passengers at airports and on flights have soared during the pandemic, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, which has sought to crack down on passengers interfering with crew members.

  • The FAA typically deals with 100 to 150 such incidences per year. From February to May this year, the FAA reported about 1,300 such cases.
  • Earlier this month, the agency announced it had referred 37 of the "most egregious" unruly passenger cases to the FBI for potential criminal prosecution.

Driving the news: A female passenger allegedly assaulted the female operations agent "shortly after boarding Flight 4976 with scheduled service from Dallas Love Field to La Guardia," Southwest told Axios.

  • "The passenger was taken into custody by local law enforcement officers and our employee was transported to a local hospital. She was released last night and is at home resting," the airline added.
  • NBC News reported that the passenger first got into a verbal argument with a flight attendant, who then asked her to leave the plane.
  • The passenger then walked to the front of the plane and argued with another employee, before punching her in the head, per the network.

What they're saying: "Southwest Airlines maintains a zero-tolerance policy regarding any type of harassment or assault and fully supports our Employee as we cooperate with local authorities regarding this unacceptable incident," the airline said in their statement to Axios.

Go deeper