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American Airlines flight diverts over ‘passenger disruption’

written by Isabella Richards | February 9, 2022

Grounded American 2
Grounded American Airlines planes. (Airlinerwatch)

An American Airlines flight on its way to Los Angeles was forced to divert due to a passenger who made a “threatening statement” towards a crew member.

It comes as unruly passenger numbers continue to rise due to mask mandates, seeing airlines crack down on bad behaviour towards staff.

“American Airlines flight 482 from Charlotte (CLT) to Los Angeles (LAX) diverted to Albuquerque (ABQ) following a passenger disruption in which a threatening statement was made toward a crew member,” airline spokesperson Curtis Blessing said in a statement emailed to CNN.

The aircraft was met by local law enforcement after landing in Albuquerque at 10:25pm, according to Blessing, and passengers were deplaned and then left for LAX at 11:49pm, landing at 12:26am, according to FlightAware.

“We thank our crew for their professionalism and apologise to our customers for any inconvenience this caused to their travel plans,” Blessing continued.

Since the pandemic began, unruly passenger numbers rose significantly compared to previous years.

In 2021 alone, just under 6,000 incidents were reported, with over 1,000 further investigated. This was compared to 2019, where only 146 reports were further looked into.

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Blessing said that the Texas-based airline expects “customers to comply with … policies when they choose to fly with us, and we take action when that is not the case.”

The Federal Aviation Administration can fine individuals up to US$37,000 if they do not comply with safety rules on flight.

The news comes after CEO of Delta Air Lines Ed Bastian, last week, again pushed for unruly passengers to be prosecuted, and to place them on a no-fly list.

It was first proposed in 2021, but a new letter was sent to US Attorney General Merrick Garland in early February this year, urging the importance of the matter.

The following day, the Department of Justice said it would hold accountable those who violate the law and “will be referring to Delta’s letter to appropriate departments”.

Last August, the FAA had reached US$1 million in passenger fines over unruly passengers, mostly to low-cost carrier customers.

In July, a survey released by the Association of Flight Attendants revealed that 84 per cent of US flight crew had handled at least one case of unruly passengers in 2021.

The association – which represents United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Spirit Airlines and other smaller carriers – surveyed almost 5,000 people, and 17 per cent stated they had experienced a physical incident.

It came only a month after airlines and trade organisations wrote an open letter to the US Department of Justice in June calling on it to commit to full public prosecution against violent passengers.

Last week, Southwest Airlines reintroduced alcohol to their services after a two-year ban due to unruly passengers, but unions still claim it is the wrong decision regarding the safety of flight crew.

This year, the FAA has reported 323 unruly passengers, to which 205 were related to masks, and 73 already have been investigated further.

 

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