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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

Thanksgiving air travel doubles 2020 level

Travelers wait in a long queue at the security checkpoint of Orlando International Airport on Nov. 24. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Transportation Security Administration said it screened more than 2.3 million airline passengers on Wednesday — the highest number since the start of the pandemic and more than double the number of people who passed through TSA security checkpoints on the same day last year.

Driving the news: TSA said last week it expects to screen about 20 million air passengers during the Thanksgiving travel period this year.

Movie theaters go out of style

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Vaccination rates are going up, people are going out to restaurants again — although the new COVID variant may get in the way — but they still aren't rushing back to the movies.

By the numbers: Some 49% of pre-pandemic moviegoers are no longer hitting theaters, according to a study from the film research company The Quorum, as reported by the New York Times.

3 hours ago - Health

Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles down

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

European countries are doubling down on pressure campaigns to get people vaccinated just as Republicans continue to wage war — often successfully — against vaccine mandates in the U.S.

Why it matters: The starkly different approaches create a sharp contrast between the regions' approaches to vaccination, even as the Omicron variant rapidly spreads around the world.

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