Two women from the Bronx have been charged with assault and interfering with flight crew after they were accused of hurling racial slurs, spitting on one of their seatmates and assaulting one of the flight attendants on an American Airlines flight from Dallas Fort Worth to Los Angeles.
If found guilty, the two women face a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment plus a $250,000 fine.
The incident onboard American Airlines flight AA776 took place on February 24 but Kelly Pichardo, 31 and Leeza Rodriguez, 30 have only now been charged following an investigation by the FBI. They were previously indicted by a Grand Jury.
The pilots of flight AA776 were so concerned about the safety risk that the pair posed that they made an unscheduled landing at Phenix Sky Harbor where they were arrested by officers from the Phoenix Police Department.
It’s alleged that the incident started when a male passenger asked the two women to stop using racially charged language in their conversation. Pichardo stands accused of spitting at the man who in turn attempted to use his cellphone to record the exchange.
Rodriguez hit the phone out of the man’s hand forcing flight attendants to intervene and resulting in one of them being assaulted.
A spokesperson for American Airlines described the women’s behavior as “disturbing and unacceptable” and said they were both on an internal ‘no-fly list’ pending the outcome of an investigation.
In addition to the criminal charges, the pair also face an investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) which has the power to levy a maximum $37,000 civil penalty for unruly passenger behavior.
Photo Credit: Vytautas Kielaitis / Shutterstock.co
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.