A Southwest Airlines pilot is facing possible criminal charges over an allegation that he assaulted a flight attendant during a heated dispute over face masks at a hotel bar in San Jose, California. The airline says the pilot has been placed on leave pending an investigation.
“The event involved a disagreement over mask-wearing or masks,” Sergeant Christian Camarillo of the San Jose Police Department told USA Today after details of the October 18 started to emerge.
It’s understood that the pilot and flight attendant were part of the same crew who had worked flights together on the day the fight took place and were staying at the same crew layover hotel.
The pilot is being investigated for assault and battery but no charges have yet been filed by the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office.
A spokesperson for Southwest confirmed that there had been a “crew disagreement” during a recent overnight trip but the airline refused to provide further details citing privacy concerns.
Several days after the alleged assault, Southwest sent a company-wide memo to employees with a warning that “crossing the line in a heated conversation” could result in disciplinary action including dismissal.
“We realize there has been a steady drumbeat over the last 19 months about civility and respectful discourse – and that is for good reason. Many of our people have been faced with an uncomfortable situation where their beliefs are not shared by someone else, resulting in a confrontation of some kind,” the memo said.
Southwest implored workers to “treat everyone with respect and honor our differences without pushing our ideals on someone else.”
The memo was co-signed by the head of flight operations which manages pilots and the head of inflight operations which oversees flight attendant management.
The Southwest flight attendants union told USA Today: “We are aware of this matter and the fact that the investigation continues. As with all flight attendants we represent, we will support our member in accordance with the law and our collective bargaining agreement.”
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.