Woman Arrested for Assaulting Southwest Airlines Employee

Liz Carey

Dallas, Texas (WorkersCompensation.com) – A 32-year-old woman was arrested on Saturday after police allege she punched a Southwest Airlines employee in the head, police said.

According to police, Arielle Jean Jackson got into a verbal argument with two Southwest employees when she boarded a flight at Love Field in Dallas. Authorities said that once on board, Jackson immediately got into an verbal altercation with a flight agent at the back of the plane. Jackson then moved to the front of the plane, getting into an argument with another agent, and punching her in the head with a closed fist.

The flight attendant was sent to the hospital in stable condition and was released Saturday evening, Southwest said.

“Southwest Airlines maintains a zero-tolerance policy regarding any type of harassment or assault and fully support our employee as we cooperate with local authorities regarding this unacceptable incident,” the airline said in a written statement.

Police said Jackson would be charged with aggravated assault.

The incident comes on the heels of the Federal Aviation Administration’s release of its latest list of violations, and the resulting $225,287 in fines, against passengers for assault-related unruly behavior.

On Nov. 10, the FAA said it had added civil penalties for 10 more passengers for unruly behavior to its growing list of more than 100 such reports since Jan. 1. So far, the agency had levied more than $1 million in civil penalties against unruly behaviors.

While the rate of unruly passenger incidents on commercial flights has dropped sharply since the FAA launched its “Zero Tolerance” campaign earlier this year, the agency said, the rate of incidents still remain high. The agency has recorded more than 5,110 reports of unruly passenger behavior, referring more than 970 of them for investigation. Of those, 239 have resulted in charges.

Included in the cases announced on Nov. 10 were:

  • A passenger on a Horizon Air flight from Austin to San Francisco who failed to follow crew instructions to fasten her seatbelt and then screamed at her family, diverting flight attendants from their duties. The woman then threw trash at the flight attendant and grabbed cookies away from another passenger. The recommended penalty was $32,000.
  • A passenger on a Jan. 4, Delta Air Line flight from New York to Los Angeles who yelled orders at multiple flight attendants before leaving his seat with the fasten seatbelt sign was on and refusing to return to his seat. The passenger threatened a flight attendant with profanities and made physical contact with another. The plane returned to the terminal where law enforcement escorted the passenger off the plane. The suggested penalty was $20,000.
  • A passenger on a May 5, Southwest Airlines flight from New York to Chicago left his seat during the plane’s final descent and attempted to enter the cockpit. After being led back to his seat by flight attendants, the passenger tried to remove his luggage from the overhead bin. When flight attendants stopped him, he began punching one of the flight attendants who later required medical attention. A civil penalty of $26,787 was levied.
  • A passenger on a March 28, Southwest Airlines flight from New Orleans to Baltimore refused to wear a facemask and took it out on a flight attendant by elbowing him in the side and kicking him as he picked up trash. The behavior was reported to the captain who locked down the cockpit and requested law enforcement meet her at the gate. The FAA levied a $24,000 civil penalty for her behavior.

The FAA said it was launching an investigation into Jackson’s actions and could refer the incident to the FBI

“Attacks on flight crews are flat-out wrong, and they are illegal,” the FAA said in a statement.

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said the civil penalties and FBI investigations should put those determined to hurt flight crew members on alert.

“Let this serve both as a warning and a deterrent: If you disrupt a flight, you risk not just fines from the FAA but federal criminal prosecution as well,” Dickson said in a statement released on Thursday.