ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A former American Airlines passenger has been sentenced after prosecutors say she assaulted two people on an airplane and deployed its emergency slide.
Cynthia McKnight, 24, was a passenger on an American Airlines flight scheduled to depart from Buffalo Niagara International Airport in Upstate New York on April 19, 2022. Prosecutors said McKnight, from Rochester, New York, walked to the front of the cabin while the plane preparing to depart, where she got into a “verbal altercation” with a traveler.
She also spat on a third passenger, prosecutors said.
“The plane was preparing to actually take off and the pilot was forced to return based on this passenger’s unruly behavior,” said Niagara Falls Transit Authority Chief of Police Brian Patterson at the time. “There was an attempt to calm her down and that attempt failed, at which point she then opened the emergency exit door.”
Furthermore, McKnight attempted to open the emergency door while the plane was still in motion, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Western District of New York.
Prosecutors say McKnight also pushed a flight attendant who tried to stop her. Once the door was open, the emergency slide automatically deployed.
After she exited the aircraft, McKnight was “combative” and spat at the responding officers, and ultimately needed to be restrained, according to Patterson.
“Several agencies have been involved in this case. On the transit side, charges were filed for a litany of offenses,” Patterson said at the time.
McKnight was ultimately convicted to simple assault in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States. A district judge sentenced her to time served and three years’ probation.
WIVB’s Sarah Minkewicz contributed to this report.