An unruly passenger has been sent to jail for 40 days and ordered to pay American Airlines $8,000 in restitution after his behavior prompted the Captain to make an unscheduled stop in St. Louis so that law enforcement could haul him into custody.
James Patrick Maloney of Honeoye, in upstate New York, pleaded guilty to a single count of interference with flight crew by assault back in April but District Judge John A. Ross has just now handed down Maloney’s sentence.
As well as receiving jail time for what Judge Ross described as “outrageous” behavior, Maloney must complete 100 hours of community service, undergo substance misuse testing and receive mental health counseling.
The incident occurred on September 12, 2020, when Maloney was traveling on an American Airlines flight from Charlotte to Las Vegas with his girlfriend.
At the time, the federal face mask mandate had not been created but American Airlines had its own strict mask policy in force. According to Maloney’s plea agreement, a flight attendant spotted him not wearing his mask so that he could drink a can of beer that had not been purchased onboard the aircraft.
The FAA prohibits passengers from drinking their own alcohol on U.S. airplanes so the flight attendant ordered Maloney to put his mask back on.
The flight attendant had already reprimanded Maloney for opening an overhead locker and Maloney responded by shouting a series of slurs at the crew member, including “f–k Black Lives Matter”.
The flight crew issued Maloney with a final written warning for his behavior but he responded by threatening to screw up the letter.
Maloney went to the lavatory but he became “agitated” when he returned to his seat and couldn’t immediately see his girlfriend. He confronted a flight attendant and then lunged at the crew member in an attempt to hit him but was stopped by his girlfriend who grabbed him before he was able to strike the flight attendant.
During sentencing, Judge Ross said there was no way for other passengers to have known whether Maloney’s actions could have escalated to a point that he endangered their safety.
“The terror that people had to feel – it’s inexcusable,” Judge Ross told Maloney.
At the time of Maloney’s arrest, unruly passenger incidents were at an all-time high. The sharp increase in disruptive incidents led to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) introducing a ‘one strike and you’re out policy’ for unruly passengers which eventually started to have an impact in reducing inflight incidents.
The removal of the face mask mandate, however, had an even more dramatic effect on unruly passenger incidents and the average number of incidents reported to the FAA remains below that of late 2020.
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.