A woman from the Bronx has been sentenced to four months imprisonment by an Arizona judge after she pleaded guilty to interfering with crew members on an American Airlines flight from Dallas Fort Worth to Los Angeles in February 2022.
Kelly Pichardo, 32, admitted to causing a disturbance alongside her co-defendant Leeza Rodriguez, 30, on American Airlines flight AA776 on February 24. The pilots were so concerned about the women’s behavior that they decided to make an emergency diversion to Phoenix where the pair were removed by law enforcement.
Pichardo and Rodriguez were sitting together in the First Class cabin when a fellow passenger admonished them for allegedly using racially charged language during a loud conversation they were having.
Pichardo responded by spitting and shouting racial slurs at the man and then knocked his cell phone out of his hand when he attempted to record the exchange between them.
Flight attendants waded into the dispute, but one of the crew members ended up getting assaulted which resulted in the diversion to Phoenix Sky Harbor. 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.
“There is a line between boorish behavior on an airplane and criminal activity, and the defendant clearly crossed it,” commented United States Attorney Gary Restaino following Pichardo’s sentencing.
“First class passengers are not immune from prosecution: defendant’s verbal and physical intimidation disrupted the travel of passengers and crew alike.”
Pichardo also faces 36 months of supervised release and has been ordered to pay $9,123 in restitution to American Airlines.
Rodriguez has also pleaded guilty to interfering with crew members but will not be sentenced until November 7, 2022.
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.