Alton James Johnson, 43, of Yuba City, California has pleaded guilty in federal court to assaulting two Southwest Airlines flight attendants during a December 2019 flight between San Diego and Albuquerque. Feds reached a plea agreement with Johnson on Tuesday in the United States District Court of New Mexico and he will remain in custody until he is sentenced.
Johnson had been accused of repeatedly and inappropriately touching the legs and buttocks of one of the flight attendants, assaulting another flight attendant and verbally harassing the crew.
After touching up and down the back of the leg of one female crew member, Johnson allegedly said to her: “You should be flying for looking so pretty”. He touched her leg on four occasions according to court documents.
Flight attendants immediately cut off alcohol to Johnson after they smelt alcohol on his breath, although by this point he had already been served one beverage.
On one occasion, Johnson grabbed the buttock of the female flight attendant and squeezed forcefully in a way that the flight attendant describing as feeling “very inappropriate”. A male flight attendant who tried to intervene was grabbed by Johnson on the leg and then the arm.
During one interaction, Johnson allegedly told the flight attendant to “be more humble and find another career”. Another passenger who provided a witness statement, however, said the flight attendant had been polite during his interactions with Johnson.
After landing, Johnson then jumped up from his seat despite the fact the plane was still taxiing to the gate and ignored flight attendant commands to remain seated, saying he needed to use the lavatory. Johnson started to urinate with the lavatory door open and was apparently so drunk that he was rocking back and forth and urinating all over the bathroom.
In his plea agreement, Johnson acknowledged that despite being under the influence of alcohol he remained under control of his actions. Johnson faces six months imprisonment as well as a $5,000 fine.
A 2017 survey by the Association of Flight Attendants found that 68 per cent of crew had experienced sexual harassment during their flying careers and that 18 per cent had experienced physical sexual harassment from passengers in the last year.
Worryingly, 68 per cent also said they hadn’t noticed any efforts from their employers to address sexual harassment. A number of airlines have, however, stepped up efforts to clamp down on sexual assault and inappropriate behavior towards flight attendants and other airline workers in recent years.
Southwest Airlines has been contacted for comment.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently used by some of the biggest names in journalism.