A man has been arrested on suspicion of punching a Southwest Airlines flight attendant in the jaw and choking her as the two rode a concourse train at Denver International Airport (DEN) according to court documents obtained by a local news station.
Jeffrey Hiers of Thornton, Colorado is currently facing a misdemeanor charge of assault following his arrest by the Denver police department at around 1:20 am on Thursday. He has since been released on a $1,500 personal recognizance bond.
According to court records obtained by 9 News, Hiers was riding the same concourse train as the flight attendant when he “just punched her in her jaw and then placed his hands around her neck and started to choke her.”
“Other passengers intervened and removed the defendant’s grasp from the victim and had him wait for the police to arrive,” the probable cause statement of the incident continued.
It’s not known what prompted the vicious attack and it remains unclear if the flight attendant was badly injured. Sources claim the flight attendant was followed off a flight by a passenger who she had told to comply with the federal face mask mandate.
In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for Southwest Airlines said it has “zero tolerance for any type of verbal or physical abuse of our Employees. Southwest will fully cooperate with law enforcement authorities regarding this incident, and we sincerely appreciate the quick actions and kindness of the bystanders and first responders who assisted our Flight Attendant colleague.”
On Monday, the U.S. aviation industry wrote a letter to attorney general Merrick Garland pleading for the federal government to clamp down on unruly passenger behavior with the threat of jail time.
Airlines 4 America which represents some of the biggest U.S. airlines, including Southwest, said federal prosecutors should make greater use of criminal sanctions that carry a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment.
“The federal government should send a strong and consistent message through criminal enforcement that compliance with federal law and upholding aviation safety are of paramount importance, the letter to AG Garland read.
There has been an explosion in unruly passenger reports since the start of the year with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) now in receipt of more than 3,000 incident reports since January. Around 76 per cent of reports concern passengers who refused to comply with the federal face mask mandate.
The FAA has already handed out around $356,000 in civil penalties against 21 unruly passengers for flouting face mask rules and being disruptive but the aviation industry wants the federal government to go further by making sure rule breakers face consistent criminal sanctions.
Last month, a Southwest flight attendant had two of her teeth knocked out after being punched in the face by a passenger in a face mask dispute. Lyn Montgomery, president of Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 556 branch which represents Southwest flight attendants has demanded that the airline do more to protect its workers from “aggressive” passengers.
Photo Credit: Denver International Airport
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 relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.