Unfortunately, it wasn’t entirely unexpected that a Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant was punched twice in an unprovoked incident on Thursday. Continue on for a chilling video on this issue.
As you know, a Hilo-bound Hawaiian Airlines flight was forced to return to Honolulu yesterday after a passenger allegedly punched a flight attendant twice in an “unprovoked incident.”
The widely reported assault, amid a nationwide uptick in attacks on airline employees, prompted widespread condemnation from the industry and government. A federal investigation is pending.
Sheriffs arrested a 32-year-old Hawaii Island resident for third-degree assault. He was then transferred to the Federal Detention Center in Honolulu, where he remains in FBI custody. He had no prior criminal record.
Two incidents yesterday. The first on HA 152.
According to Hawaiian Airlines, Flight 152 departed Honolulu at about 730 am. Soon after takeoff, the passenger “assaulted one of our flight attendants, who was walking down the aisle, in an unprovoked incident” in an issue “not triggered by non-compliance with mask wearing policies. The flight attendant was shaken up but is doing well.”
A spokesperson for the flight attendants’ union said that the flight attendant, a man, was beaten twice as he walked through the cabin picking up trash. Others have reported that it was during the service component of the flight, not trash pickup, that the problem arose. The flight attendants’ union representative confirmed that “there was no escalating incident. Suddenly, from their seat (they) punched a flight attendant in the chest and then swung again at the flight attendant. There’s no clear reason why.”
Yesterday’s second incident was on HA 22.
Flight 22 departed just after 1 pm, bound for Seattle. Hawaii DOT confirmed a disturbance that resulted in the plane turning back to Honolulu, where it landed about four hours later.
At about two hours into the flight, the passenger, according to Hawaiian Airlines, refused to comply with the federal mask mandate. Flight attendants, together with a pilot who was not actively working the flight, were able to get the situation under control. The captain nonetheless decided to return to Honolulu, where the passenger was taken into custody. As you know, any issue, whether medical, mechanical or otherwise, over the open ocean is of tremendous concern. Typically flights will divert to the nearest location, which, since it occurred only two hours into the flight, would still have been Hawaii.
Hawaiian Airlines also said they have either denied boarding to or banned nearly 100 passengers so far this year. We don’t know the details of how many of the issues arose en route vs. those passengers who were not permitted to board flights.
The flight attendants’ union representative said, “We still have incidents where people are just wearing their face mask below their nose or improperly until a flight attendant walks by, and that aggravates the other passengers, and it causes a difficult situation. So it’s been difficult through this pandemic, and things have certainly peaked because of it.”
The worst time ever for airline employees now includes those based in Hawaii.
The union also said that this had been the worst year to date in terms of unruly passengers. It is a hard enough job under normal conditions. Now, however, people’s nerves seem to be on edge constantly. Flight attendants report being understandably “anxious, fearful.”
Problems exacerbated by alcohol.
Unruly passenger incidents are in many cases exacerbated by alcohol, which has led airlines to begin banning alcoholic beverages. Southwest and American have both banned alcohol sales at least into 2022. We do expect others to follow. The sale of alcoholic beverages at airports is also under scrutiny.
The flight attendant rep also said, “Most people expect that we’re just serving beverages or taking care of the comfort, but really we’re there as safety professionals, and that’s the most important thing to know or recognize about flight attendants. We all have to coexist in this tiny tube up in the sky, but our hope is that we can continue to bring our passengers back and forth safely.”
JetBlue incident also occurred Thursday.
On Thursday, there was also an incident aboard a JetBlue flight from Boston to San Juan. At the conclusion, a passenger had to be restrained in a seat using seatbelt extenders following a mid-air problem. According to the FBI, the passenger, Khalil El Dahr, tried to make a phone call towards the end of the flight and “became angry about the call’s unsuccess. After that, he rushed towards the cockpit screaming in Spanish and Arabic, saying that someone should shoot him.
The passenger fought with a flight attendant who tried to stop him, punched and kicked him in the chest, and even strangled him using a necktie. JetBlue needed a team of “six or seven” crew to restrain the passenger, first using plastic zip-tie handcuffs. When those failed, the crew used a set of four seatbelt extenders instead. The passenger was arrested on arrival in San Juan.
Flight attendants union to the forefront of issues.