Video shows attack on Southwest flight attendant on San Diego-bound plane – The San Diego Union-Tribune
Just after the 44-second video starts, the punches start.
In the back row of a Southwest Airlines flight from Sacramento to San Diego on Sunday morning, a woman in a middle seat shakes her finger at a female flight attendant and threatens to sue.
Suddenly the passenger next to her springs from her aisle seat and hits the flight attendant. She keeps on swinging, the video shows, until another passenger jumps in, putting himself in the middle of them and yelling at the passenger to sit down.
“Don’t you dare touch a flight attendant like that,” he yells at the woman, now back in her seat. Behind him, the flight attendant pushes her hair back off her face, revealing blood running down her cheek.
Someone off camera repeatedly says “She came at her first. She came at her first.”
That encounter sent the flight attendant to the hospital and the 28-year-old passenger to jail.
It also generated headlines after someone posted footage of police escorting the passenger off the plane. It accompanies national news stories reporting that airline passenger misconduct has jumped in recent months.
The Federal Aviation Administration said in a news release earlier this week that, since the start of the year, it has received about 2,500 reports of “unruly behavior” by passengers. The vast majority of them — 1,900 reports — relate to passengers who refused to comply with the federal face mask mandate.
The day after the encounter, the president of the union that represents Southwest Airline flight attendants issued an open letter to the airline’s CEO, saying that from April 8 to May 15 the airline had 477 passenger misconduct incidents.
“This unprecedented number of incidents has reached an intolerable level, with passenger non-compliance events also becoming more aggressive in nature,” the union president, Lyn Montgomery, said. “This past weekend, one of our Flight Attendants was seriously assaulted, resulting in injuries to the face and a loss of two teeth.”
Earlier this week, the airline issued a statement that it does “not condone or tolerate verbal or physical abuse” of its flight crews.
Days after the incident, a video of the incident on the San Diego-bound plane went viral. San Diego resident Michelle Manners recorded it.
She said that about five minutes before the violence, the flight attendant and the back row passengers — two rows behind her — had just had a heated exchange about the need to wear facemasks. It was long enough and intense enough that she pulled out her phone to document it.
But the verbal clash ended before Manners could hit record. She had the phone on her lap when the confrontation reignited. Manners whipped her phone around a second before the physical altercation.
“The blows came quick,” she said.
She said the encounter happened just before the plane landed at San Diego International Airport, and people sat stunned after it was over.
“It was definitely dead silent on that plane,” Manners said. “Not a soul said a word. Everybody was just like ‘What the heck just happened?’”
It wasn’t until a few days later, when Manners wanted to add context to news stories about the incident, that she shared her recording with media outlets.
“I’m trying to set the story straight,” she said. “There are two sides.”
She said she believes both sides were at fault and both sides of the argument could have de-escalated it. She said she heard the passenger tell the flight attendant to take her hands off her shortly before the fight erupted.
“It was all just bad judgment,” Manners said.
She shared her footage with law enforcement, she said.
“I just hope that other people will step up and provide what the investigators will need to come to a resolution on this,” she said. “Obviously the passenger was wrong … but other people have footage and can build a better foundation for what exactly (happened).”
The passenger in the video was detained but was bailed out of jail. She has a court date in San Diego in September.