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Woman Who Was Duct Taped to a First Class Seat On an American Airlines Flight to Charlotte is Being Sued By the FAA For $82,000

Woman Who Was Duct Taped to a First Class Seat On an American Airlines Flight to Charlotte is Being Sued By the FAA For $82,000

a plane with a person in the cockpit

A woman who had to be duct taped to her First Class seat on an American Airlines flight to Charlotte after she attempted to open an aircraft door mid-flight is being sued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for $81,950 for unpaid civil penalties stemming from her drawn out outburst.

Heather E. Wells, 34, made international headlines in July 2021 when photos taken by another passenger of her bound and taped to her First Class seat went viral.

Following the terrifying mid-flight incident, the FAA, which at the time was waging a high-profile campaign against unruly passengers, decided to slap Wells with a series of civil penalties to punish her for her conduct aboard Flight 1774.

Wells, however, has so far failed to clear her debt, and the FAA is now asking a District Court in San Antonio to help recover what she owes, along with interest and attorney’s fees.

In recently filed court documents, lawyers acting on behalf of the FAA revealed new details about what occurred during the flight from Dallas Fort Worth on July 7, 2021.

Over an hour into the two-hour flight to Charlotte, Wells allegedly ordered a Jack Daniels neat before becoming increasingly agitated and telling her seatmates that she “wanted out” of the plane.

She then got up from her seat and started running towards the back of the plane before dropping to her knees in the aisle and talking incoherently to the startled passengers around her.

When a flight attendant approached Wells, she allegedly threatened to hurt him before shoving him to one side and sprinting towards the front of the plane where she went to grab the door handle to one of the forward emergency exits.

Two flight attendants and a good samaritan passenger jumped in to restrain Wells, although they struggled to secure her with flexicuffs as Wells repeatedly hit one of the flight attendants in the head.

Eventually, they managed to get Wells back in her seat but it soon became apparent that the flexicuffs alone wouldn’t be enough to stop Wells from kicking and spitting out.

It was at this point that the flight attendants decided to duct tape Well’s body to the seat before trying to tape her mouth shut.

The pilots decided to continue onto Charlotte, but by the time they had landed, Wells had managed to wriggle her feet free from the restraints and was kicking the seat in front so hard that it broke.

In the end, law enforcement decided to deplane all the other passengers before even attempting to remove Wells. In order to do so safely, paramedics sedated Wells before she was untied from the seat.

Passenger Arieana Mathena said the situation onboard the plane was ‘chaos’ and that the flight attendants were ‘frantic’ as they attempted to bring Wells under control.

At one point, the pilot ordered all the other passengers to remain seated while the flight attendants dealt with the incident, while the lavatories were also locked off due to the ongoing security threat.

The FAA fined Wells for a slew of offenses, including $27,950 for attempting to open the emergency exit door, $9,000 for interfering with the duties of a crew member, and $45,000 for threatening, hitting and spitting at a crew member.

A little over a month after this incident, United Airlines told its flight attendants that they should not, under any circumstances, use duct tape to restrain unruly passengers.

Many flight attendants carry a roll of duct tape with them to temporarily fix broken equipment, but in recent years, this unauthorized piece of kit has been used as a restraint device.

Both American Airlines and United Airlines have their own approved restraint devices, although, as can be seen in this case, they are not always 100% effective.


TOTH: View from the Wing

View Comments (13)
  • I believe your flight attendants should be given an award for how they all handled the situation. That woman should not only be fined but never be allowed to fly in any flight ever again. She should be banned from traveling in trains as well. It’s not like she was a teenager and was having a bad day. No, she should be banned from all travel

  • Paragraph 15…..Content error. Reads, “all other pilots…” Should read, “all other passengers…”

  • Should have HOG tied this looney tune and duck taped her to the ceiling so we all can smack her while departing as if she was a piñata!

  • Obviously not her best day. And perhaps an idiosyncratic reaction to some chemical or drug she had consumed by choice or was slipped. It seems a much further investigation would be warranted as to what was the CAUSE of her outburst. The idea a rather small woman was so powerful as to break a 1st class seat by kicking it seems…. well, so far beyond the norm as to be worth investigating! As is her normal level of everyday behavior!

    It would certainly seem that this was a case of someone being
    unable to control herself for readons beyond simply poor manners.

  • I also agree with the comment that the flight attendants should be commended for their actions. In regards to the use of duct tape the airlines should reverse their policy. In order to protect the other passengers any all methods should be allowed. This person should be banned from all airline and train travel forever.

  • I support the flight crew. They handled the situation and kept the other passengers safe. I’m sure they were severely stressed. Dealing with a crazy passenger while dealing with the other passengers that are unhappy with their travel. I believe duct tape was a good choice. All landed safely. Good job!

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