An incident involving unruly behavior from a passenger on Southwest Airlines (LUV) flight 700 on May 23, 2021, resulted in the injury of a Southwest Airlines (LUV) flight attendant. According to reports, the flight attendant lost two teeth after being assaulted by the passenger.

According to Chris Mainz, a Southwest spokesperson, the incident, which involved a female passenger, occurred after the arrival of Southwest Airlines (LUV) flight 700 in San Diego flying from Sacramento. “The passenger repeatedly ignored standard inflight instructions and became verbally and physically abusive upon landing,” added Mainz. Upon arrival, the passenger was remanded into custody by authorities.

Following the incident, a letter from the TWU Local 556 union president Lyn Montgomery, addressed to the airline’s CEO, Gary C. Kelly, called for the airline to implement safeguards to prevent or negate the occurrence of such incidents caused by misconduct from passengers as the demand in the airline industry picks up.

"This past weekend, one of our flight attendants was seriously assaulted, resulting in injuries to the face and a loss of two teeth,'' said Montgomery in the letter. “Unfortunately, this is just one of many occurrences,” she adds, following a total of 477 incidents recorded between April 8 and May 15, 2021, involving disorderly conduct from passengers resulting in altercations with flight attendants.

The return of air travel in the industry has unexpectedly come coupled with an alarming increase of reports of similar incidents between flight attendants and passengers. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the annual average of passenger misconduct reports ranges between 100 to 150 cases. In the first 5 months of 2021, 2,500 cases have been reported with nearly 2000 cases involving passengers neglecting and refusing to adhere to face mask regulations.  

“I write to you today because we cannot tolerate our beloved cohorts being abused in such a manner, and because I am asking for your help and leadership in ending these travesties,” said Montgomery in the letter highlighting the growing concerns of flight attendants over the declining passenger compliance to cabin instructions.

Montgomery has called for an increase in restrictions, penalties, and bans for passengers who threaten the wellbeing of other passengers and of the cabin crew by failing to adhere to regulations and orderly conduct. She also insists on the involvement of the US government to deploy additional federal air marshals on flights asking that they get more involved.

Speaking on the incident and the nature of the environment that flight attendants navigate daily, Susan C. Friedenberg the President and CEO of Corporate Flight Attendant Training & Global Consulting gave a comment to AeroTime saying, “The work that commercial flight attendants do now is not "glamorous". It is scary for them to go to work in the political climate of today. Passengers are acting out and taking it out on the crew. The flight attendants deserve hourly "hazard" pay. Added to the fact, they are not paid their hourly pay until the plane pushes off the gate. They are under duress with passengers acting out on the ground due to delays. I pray for my commercial sisters and brothers and their physical safety".

Additionally, on May 24, 2021, the FAA announced that Five unruly passengers are facing a collective total of $60,000 in fines following disorderly conduct and breaches of facemask regulations, as well as assaults on flight attendants.