Attacks on Flight Attendants Continue, as Passenger Tries to Stab Crew Member with Spoon

13 Mar, 2023 Liz Carey


Boston, MA ( – Airline officials said a passenger has been arrested after he attempted to stab a flight attendant in the neck with a broken spoon.  

According to Boston Police, a passenger on a United Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Boston was arrested March 5 after he attempted to open an emergency door while the plane was in flight and then assaulted the crew member.  

Passengers  and other crew members tackled Francisco Severo Torres, 33, of Leominster, Mass., an held him until authorities could arrest him.  

Federal prosecutors said United’s Flight 2609 out of Los Angeles was about 45 minutes from Boston when alarms started going off in the cockpit warning that a side door between first class and the coach section had been disarmed. A flight attendant investigated and found that the locking handle on the door had been moved toward the unlocked position, officials said in a statement. The arming lever for the emergency slide had also been disarmed, the statement said.  

A flight attendant confronted Torres about seeing him tampering with the door. Torres, reportedly, asked the flight attendant if cameras would show if he had done something, the statement said.  

After the flight attendant notified the captain of what he believed, and that Torres posed a threat, the captain said he’d land the plane as soon as possible. Shortly after that, Torres got out of his seat and approached two flight attendants, the statement said. One of the flight attendants reported that they saw Torres mouth something, and that he was holding a “shiny object.”  

As he approached the flight attendants, he used the object to stab the crew member several times. The flight attendant said Torres hit him on the shirt collar and tie three times, the statement said.  

Passengers and crew members tackled Torres, until the plane landed and authorities could arrest Torres.  

Later, Torres told officials he “had gotten the idea to open the emergency exit door and jump out of the plane.” When he was confronted by flight attendants, Torres said, he tried to stab one of them because “he believed the flight attendant was trying to kill him, so he was trying to kill the flight attendant first.”  

Torres was charged with one count of interference and attempted interference with flight crew members using a dangerous weapon. The charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.  

“Thanks to the quick action of our crew and customers, one customer was restrained after becoming a security concern,” United said in a statement. “We have zero tolerance for any type of violence on our flights, and this customer will be banned from flying on United pending an investigation.”

Incidents of unruly passengers spiked in 2021, with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had more than 6,000 reports of unruly passenger that led to 1,099 investigations. In 2022, the FAA said nearly 2,400 reports of unruly passengers were reported, leading to 823 investigations and 553 enforcement actions.  

Over the past two weeks, airlines have seen a spike in unruly incidents, officials said.  

On March 8, a passenger was subdued by other passengers when he swung at a fellow passenger several times. Officials said a tattooed passenger on a Southwest Airlines flight from Dallas to Phoenix was sitting in his seat when he was approached by another passenger who asked him for his address, then punched him several times.  

Witnesses said that the tattooed man had accidentally bumped into the wife of his attacker earlier in the gate area. Southwest said flight crew members handled the situation well.  

"Nothing to share other than to say our Flight Crews are well trained in de-escalation and we commend them for managing the situation and ensuring the Safety and Comfort of the other passengers in the cabin," Southwest said in a statement.

In late February, a passenger on an American Airlines flight forced the pilot to make an emergency landing in North Carolina when she charged the cockpit over cocktails.  

Officials said Flight 3444 from Jacksonville, Fla., to Washington, D.C. Was diverted to Raleigh-Durham International Airport in North Carolina, after flight crews reported a “passenger disturbance.” 

The FAA said in a tweet that it was investigating the incident when the passenger tried to “breach the cockpit” and was “being somewhat restrained by the flight crew and other passengers.”  

Officials said Tiffany Miles, 36, had walked toward the cockpit after not getting a cocktail during the flight. 

In an interview with WRAL, Miles said she had asked a flight attendant for a Jack Daniels and Coke before the flight took off, and during the flight, and was told there was no alcohol served on the flight.  

Miles told WRAL she has anxiety and needed the cocktail to cool off and calm down. When she was out of her seat near the bathroom at the front of the plane, two flight attendants approached her causing her anxiety to get worse. 

"I started freaking out because so many people started getting up on me," Miles told the news outlet. "I started freaking completely out, saying, 'This is not called for.'" 

Flight crew members restrained Miles with zip ties until the flight landed safely, officials said.  

Miles said the incident was a misunderstanding and that she wants an apology.  

"What person in their right mind would go up to the cockpit while the pilot was flying the plane? It doesn't make sense," Miles said, explaining that she was in the area to use the bathroom. 

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    • 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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