11 Days – 76 Unruly Passengers, 2022 Starting out Better than 2021 on Airplanes

21 Jan, 2022 Liz Carey


Washington, DC (WorkersCompensation.com) – From a sheer numbers standpoint, 2022 is shaping up to be better than 2021 when it comes to unruly passengers. 

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), as of Jan. 11, there were 76 incidents of unruly passengers reported by flight crews this year – about seven every day. The FAA said the U.S. sees an average of 45,000 flights per day, meaning one in every 6,428 flights saw an unruly passenger. 

In 2021, the FAA received 5,981 reports of unruly passengers, for an average of 16 incidents per day, or one incident for every 2,800 flights. 

Of the incidents in 2021, 4,290 (nearly 72 percent) were mask related. In 2022, 43 of the incidents were mask related, or just over 56 percent. 

“The rate of unruly passenger incidents has dropped approximately 50 percent since record-highs in early 2021, but there remains more work to do,” the FAA said on its website. 

On Jan. 13, 2021, the FAA instituted a “Zero Tolerance” toward unruly passengers. FAA Administrator Steve Dickson signed an order that directed stricter enforcement against unruly airline passengers after several incidents in the air. Prior to his order, the FAA would sometimes issue warnings or counsel unruly passengers. With the new order, the FAA said it would not address cases with warnings or counseling and would pursue legal enforcement action against any passenger who assaults, threatens, intimidates or interferes with a flight crew member. 

But even with the Zero Tolerance policy, unruly passenger incidents sky-rocketed in 2021. In 2019, the FAA said they initiated 146 investigations into passenger incidents. In 2021, that number was 1,075. 

So far in 2022, the FAA has initiated one investigation, according to date released on Jan. 12. 

For Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, said flight attendants now face a steady stream of aggression at their workplace. 

"We also have a lot of incidents that are happening more regularly that are violent maybe not directly toward someone, but in actions and words: punching backs of seats, spitting, throwing trash at people, yelling obscenities, using racial, gender and homophobic slurs," Nelson told CNN. "Today when flight attendants put on their uniforms, they don't know if it's going to be a signal of leadership and authority for safety in the cabin or a target for a violent attack.” 

On Dec. 26, a Tennessee woman turned herself in to federal authorities after the U.S. Department of Justice accused her of assaulting two flight attendants.

Amanda Renee Henry was charged with interfering with a flight crew on Dec. 27, according to a statement from the Justice Department. On Nov. 27, Henry was flying on a Spirit Airlines flight to Fort Lauderdale, Florida when she allegedly drank so many alcoholic drinks that flight attendants cut her off. 

Henry, the complaint said, appeared to be intoxicated and became disruptive. She also allegedly was vaping during the flight, and made nearby male passengers uncomfortable when she put her hands on them and made sexual advances, the complaint said. 

Because Henry was seated next to an emergency exit, flight attendants asked her to switch seats for the safety of the other passengers. Henry refused and allegedly screamed, “I’m getting off this plane.” 

Henry then headed to the main cabin door. A flight attendant blocked her path and tried to restrain her, with a second flight attendant helping her. Henry kicked and pulled the attendants’ hair before they were able to handcuff her and put her in a seat. 

When the plane landed at Nashville International Airport, Henry was charged with public intoxication. An investigation into the incident by the FBI resulted in Henry being charged with interfering with flight crew members and attendants. She faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. 

On Dec. 23, a California woman pleaded guilty to punching a flight attendant in the face. 

Vyvianna Quinonez, 28, was asked by a flight attendant to wear her mask properly. In response, Quinonez pushed the flight attendant, and then punched her several times. The flight attendant, identified as S.L. in court documents, suffered bruises to her left eye and a cut that required three stitches. The attack also chipped three of her teeth, two of which had to be replaced with crowns. 

“The flight attendant who was assaulted was simply doing her job to ensure the safety of all passengers aboard the plane,” Acting US Attorney Randy Grossman said in a statement in December. “It’s inexcusable for anyone to use violence on an airplane for any reason, particularly toward a flight attendant who is there to keep all the passengers safe.” 

Quinonez will be sentenced on March 11, and faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Prosecutors said they would likely recommend a sentence of four month behind bars and six months of home arrest. Quinonez has also been banned from flying on Southwest Airlines.


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    About The Author

    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

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