A Southwest Airlines flight attendant lost two teeth during an assault on a flight over the weekend, a union leader wrote in a letter to the airline's CEO asking for support with increasingly unruly passengers.
"From April 8 to May 15, there were 477 passenger misconduct incidents on Southwest Airlines aircraft," Lyn Montgomery, the president of the Transport Workers Union of America Local 556, wrote in a letter Monday to Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly.
"The unprecedented number of incidents has reached an intolerable level, with passenger non-compliance events also becoming more aggressive in nature," Montgomery wrote, adding that a flight attendant over the weekend was "seriously assaulted, resulting in injuries to the face and a loss of two teeth."
A statement from Southwest Airlines said a passenger on a Sunday morning flight from Sacramento, California, to San Diego "repeatedly ignored standard inflight instructions and became verbally and physically abusive upon landing." The passenger was met by law enforcement and taken into custody when the flight landed.
"We do not condone or tolerate verbal or physical abuse of our Flight Crews, who are responsible for the safety of our passengers," the statement said.
This month, the Federal Aviation Administration warned air travelers that there has been a spike in unruly or dangerous behavior aboard passenger planes.
In a typical year, the agency sees 100 to 150 formal cases of bad passenger behavior. Since the start of this year, that number has jumped to 2,500, including about 1,900 passengers who refused to comply with the federal mask mandate, according to the FAA.
Southwest Airlines "has the responsibility of being front and center on this matter," Montgomery wrote in her letter.
"Flight Attendants are doing all they can do to ensure compliance while creating a safe environment for all passengers and crew, but they also need the support and tools required to prevent injury to ourselves and others," she added.
Montgomery asked for crew members to be given the "benefit of the doubt" by management following an in-flight confrontation.
She also requested that Southwest implement its restricted travelers list when passengers misbehave.
"No passenger should be removed from one flight only to be permitted to board the very next Southwest Airlines flight after a non-compliance incident. We ask that you take a strong stance to ensure that unruly passengers are not welcome to travel with us, period, full stop," Montgomery wrote.
She also asked for the company to request more air marshals from the federal government and to provide timely notification of flights being added to the schedule to reduce stress placed on flight crews.
"Flight Crews must feel safe and supported when reporting to work," she wrote.