An employee of Southwest Airlines was assaulted by a passenger on Saturday afternoon after a “verbal quarrel,” the airline said.
The incident occurred while boarding Southwest Flight 4976 from Dallas Love Field to New York’s LaGuardia Airport.
According to Dallas police, the passenger boarded the plane around 12:40 p.m. and headed straight for the back, where she argued with a flight attendant who instructed the passenger to leave the plane.
The passenger then went to the front of the plane and fought verbally with another Southwest employee before hitting him in the head, police said.
Police arrested the passenger, who is charged with aggravated assault.
The victim, who Southwest Airlines only identified as an operating agent, was taken to a local hospital and is in stable condition, police said.
“We have a station manager with her at the hospital with the full support of the Southwest family who sends our thoughts, prayers and love,”[ads1]; an airline spokesman said in an email. “Southwest Airlines maintains a zero tolerance policy regarding any form of harassment or abuse and fully supports our employees as we work with local authorities regarding this unacceptable incident.”
Earlier this year, a passenger hit a flight attendant from Southwest aboard a May 23 flight from Sacramento, California, to San Diego. The flight attendant lost two teeth and had other injuries to her face, according to court documents.
The incident marked an escalation in unruly behavior from air passengers and led to the president of the flight attendants’ union asking for more federal air marshals on planes.
“The unprecedented number of incidents has reached an intolerable level, with passenger deviations also becoming more aggressive,” Lyn Montgomery, president of Transport Workers Union of America Local 556, wrote in a May letter to Southwest Airlines CEO. Gary Kelly.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, there have been at least 5,114 reports of unruly passengers since the beginning of the year across all airlines, and more than 970 surveys started by the FAA in 2021 compared to 183 surveys in 2020.