Phoenix, AZ (WorkersCompensation.com) – FBI agents arrested a man who said his homophobia may have caused him to assault an American Airlines flight attendant.
According to a criminal complaint filed April 22, a passenger in first class identified as Christopher Morgan, had several interactions with a male flight attendant while on a flight from Atlanta to Phoenix, ending in Morgan assaulting the flight attendant.
The problems began, the complaint said, at the beginning of the flight, when Morgan allegedly reclined his seat all the way back and refused to move it or fasten his seatbelt. Flight attendants were forced to push the seat button to bring his seat into the upright position.
During the flight, witnesses told the FBI, he was served one alcoholic beverage. When he asked for a second, flight attendants offered a non-alcoholic beverage instead. The suggestion “angered Morgan” and he allegedly threw a glass of ice in the attendant’s face. Morgan then started yelling at the flight attendant using slurs, persisting even when other passengers tried to calm him down.
The flight attendant then went to use the airplane telephone to inform the captain about the disruption. Officials allege Morgan then got out of his seat, grabbed the telephone from the flight attendant and hit him in the chest with it.
Other flight attendants intervened, staying close to Morgan and shutting the cockpit door out of concern over security. When the flight landed in Phoenix, FBI officials arrested Morgan. During an interview, Morgan said he had not assaulted the attendant, but admitted to calling the flight attendant names. In his defense, Morgan said he was “homophobic” and that he was “uncomfortable” with the flight attendant. He said his homophobia may have caused his temper to escalate.
If found guilty, Morgan faces up to 20 years in prison for interfering with a flight crew member or attendant’s duties.
Delta said the company had no tolerance for disruptive passengers.
“Delta has zero tolerance for unruly behavior and discrimination at our airports and aboard our aircraft and takes all reports of such behavior seriously, especially when directed at our employees,”?a Delta spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill. “Nothing is more important than the safety of our people and our customers.” ?
The assault is the latest in a string of assaults on flight attendants and airline personnel since January 1, 2020. In 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) received nearly 6,000 reports of unruly passenger behavior. As of April 19 of this year, the FAA reported 1,272 incidents of unruly behavior. Of those, 807 were mask-related, and 370 were referred to law enforcement for investigation. More than 190 enforcement action cases were initiated.
With air travel on the rise again, American Airlines flight attendants’ union is requesting that the airline implement a two-drink maximum for all economy passengers.
The airline had stopped alcohol sales during the height of the assault incidents. In early April, the airline said it would be reinstate alcohol and light snacks during flights of more than 250 miles starting on April 18.
After the announcement, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants asked the airline to limit alcoholic drinks to two per passenger, per flight.
The union said limiting drink was a way to determine whether the mask mandate, alcohol or a combination of both were reasons for the spike in unruly passengers.
With nearly 65 percent of unruly passenger incidents determined to be mask-related, the union said some flight attendants wondered whether the drop of the federal mask mandate would reduce the number of unruly passengers.
Heather Holding, a flight attendant based in Chicago, told the Washington Post, said that the mask mandate forced flight attendants to enforce an unpopular mandate that made some passengers unhappy.
“Hopefully [we’re] moving in the right direction in terms of not policing people and everyone just chilling out,” she told the Post. “It’s kind of crazy to think how long it felt like we were bouncers, like the policemen of the masks. To kind of have that large aspect of our job be thrust upon us with no training … and something that was highly politicized was just a wild ride, I think, for everyone’s mental health.”