Union president pushes for more air marshals after passenger assault on flight attendant

Local News

(KTXL) — The attack on a southwest airlines flight attendant on Sunday morning is creating a push to strengthen fines and repercussions for unruly passengers.

Lyn Montgomery, the president of TWU Local 556 which is the flight attendant union for Southwest Airlines, is speaking out after a flight attendant for the airline was punched in the face by a passenger.

“It’s hard to even put it into words because it’s so horrific to think that you would come home to your family with a bloodied face, it should never happen,” Montgomery told FOX40.

Witnesses say the flight attendant was attacked after repeatedly telling 28-year-old Vyvianna Quinonez to comply with in-flight protocols during a flight from Sacramento to San Diego.

Other witnesses say the flight attendant provoked the incident. Quinonez was arrested on battery charges by Port of San Diego Harbor Police at the gate once the plane landed.

Montgomery says the encounter is just one of many instances of violence that happens on Southwest Airline flights.

“In a year, nationwide, there’s probably about a 100 to 150 reported passenger misconduct incidents, but for Southwest Airlines from April to May, there’s been 477 incidents,” Montgomery said. “They’re more aggressive in nature and it’s happening more often.” 

She is now urging the airline and the Federal Aviation Administration to permanently ban those who do not comply with the rules on board and is also asking to strengthen the air marshal program.

“With this level of violent attacks occurring onboard the aircraft, it’s time that they expanded that program,” Montgomery said. “That there are more air marshals on board and that they get involved when there’s a threat towards a flight attendant.” 

According to the FAA, there have 2,500 reported incidents of unruly passengers on airplanes and 1,900 of those are people who did not want to follow the federal mask mandate.

Professor and former commercial pilot Scot Miller told FOX40 that the stress of the pandemic and the resurgence of a busy travel season may be leading to the rise in midflight meltdowns.

“When it comes to risks onboard aircraft, I think the current data shows us that your chances of being in a physical altercation and getting in the middle of a physical altercation on a flight are actually greater than contracting coronavirus,” Miller said.

Despite the statistics, Miller says there is no excuse for violent behavior.

“Wear your mask, number one. It’s a federal mandate whether you agree with it or not,” Miller said. “If you choose not to comply, there will be negative consequences as a passenger. Understand that the employees that are providing the service, they really have a passion for this job.”

A spokesperson for the FAA told FOX40 they are strictly enforcing a zero-tolerance policy toward passengers who cause disturbances on flights or fail to obey flight crew instructions and passengers can face hefty fines and federal charges.

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