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Woman faces charges as reports of unruly airline passengers rise

A passenger who allegedly refused to wear a mask and assaulted a flight attendant on an American Airlines flight Saturday night is one of what the Federal Aviation Administration said Monday is more than 1,300 reports of unruly passengers since February.

What started as a verbal argument over trash ended in a physical altercation, court documents state, as Chenasia Campbell got up from her seat on the Miami to New York flight to confront a flight attendant. Authorities said another flight attendant pushed Campbell while trying to separate the two, and Campbell punched the flight attendant and pulled her hair. 

Campbell left the galley and argued with another passenger, according to the four-page complaint, then went up to the flight attendant and attacked her, yelling obscenities and trying to rip off the flight attendant’s uniform. “Cops aren’t going to do anything to me,” she reportedly yelled.

An off-duty New York police officer who was on the flight intervened and restrained Campbell, who was arrested when the plane landed at JFK. An American Airlines statement on the incident said she had refused to comply with the federal mask mandate.

The FAA has received approximately 1,300 unruly-passenger reports from the airlines since February, a spokesman said, and identified “potential violations” in about 260 of those. In 2019, the last full year for which data is available, the agency pursued action against 142 unruly passengers.

While fewer people have been flying since the beginning of the U.S. coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, the Transportation Security Administration data show the number of passengers it is screening at airports has risen in recent weeks. More than 1.6 million people were screened Sunday, the most on any single day since last year. The number of passengers was down 61% in 2020.

And in that time, the number of passengers banned by the airlines for unruly behavior is up. The lists maintained by the airlines — different from the federal no-fly list — had swelled to more than 3,000 as of February, data compiled by CBS News showed.

Of the reports to the FAA, the agency has initiated approximately 20 enforcement cases, a spokesman said, and is “preparing a number of additional enforcement actions.”

As for Campbell, she’s no longer welcome on American Airlines flights.

“Violence of any kind is not tolerated by American,” said a statement from the airline.


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