Flight attendants say, ‘Assault Won’t Fly’

By Jessica Meditz


Photo Courtesy: Twitter, Transport Workers Union.

Last week, flight attendants from around the country gathered at one of the top destinations, John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, to educate fellow workers and passengers about airline assaults.

Transport Workers Union’s “Assault Won’t Fly” campaign was launched in response to a drastic rise in assaults by unruly passengers during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has recently been fueled more by increasing flight delays and cancellations.

This outreach was conducted in preparation for Labor Day weekend, a time where airline workers see increased amounts of travelers — opening the door for higher tensions. 

In fact, the New York Post reported that on Sunday, hundreds of flights in and out of the U.S. were delayed and dozens more canceled.

“We’re worried about Labor Day weekend, but we’re really worried about any time where there’s going to be increased travel,” said Thom McDaniel, a flight attendant for Southwest Airlines and TWU International Vice President.

“We’ve seen that people will go after whoever’s in front of them. It is against the law to interfere with a crew member’s duties, but it’s seldom enforced,” he continued.

McDaniel said that in 2021, there was a stark increase in airline assaults with nearly 6,000 assaults. Only 1,300 of those were taken through and prosecuted.

“This year, there’s still been over 1,800 assaults, and this is without a mask mandate,” he said. “They were happening before, they’re happening after…the law has always been there, but no one’s ever enforced it. The extent of it has been that you take someone off the plane, just so that they can walk across the hall and get on another plane.”

TWU supports the Protection from Abusive Passengers Act – legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives this April to ban abusive airline passengers from flying.

The union continues to call on politicians to enact the first-ever Flight Attendants Bill of Rights to secure universal safety protocols, reporting guidelines for assaults and self-defense courses for all flight attendants.

“We don’t even get self defense courses every year,” said Raychel Armstrong, a flight attendant for Allegiant Air. “The last time I was fully trained was 11 years ago. I want to be able to defend myself against someone that’s trying to assault me sexually, or even threatening my life, but most of the time we’re just out of luck.”

Armstrong said that because her line of work is female-dominated, she and her colleagues are often questioned whether or not they are exaggerating what they go through.

“A lot of the people who are assaulted won’t speak out about it because they’re so embarrassed,” she said. “We are trained to be empathetic and understanding, and that is also used against us. I would constantly question the legitimacy of my own experience. A lot of times, they take the passenger’s side.”

Armstrong said that not only are unruly passengers a threat to airline workers, but passenger on passenger violence is also common.

For this reason, TWU encourages folks to be vocal about the presence of airline assaults, write to legislators to co-sign the Protection from Abusive Passengers Act and of course, be kind to your flight attendants.

Assault suspect still at large

No arrests have been made

Two women were physically assaulted on June 16, along Myrtle Avenue in the vicinity of the Glendale Library.

One of the victims—a 33-year-old woman, who requested to remain anonymous—said that a man punched her in the back of the head and shortly thereafter, punched another woman in the head and attempted to push her into the street.

A male witness working at a garage for Mount Lebanon Cemetery stayed with the women until the police arrived.

The Glendale Register ran a story last week describing the attacks, and at the time of publication, did not have an image of the suspect or information about him.

Since then, an employee of the cemetery posted a photo of the suspect that was captured by surveillance footage.

Christina Wilkinson, a member of Juniper Park Civic Association, promptly forwarded the image to Councilman Robert Holden, who then sent it to Cooper Rapid Rehousing Center.

The shelter confirmed that the individual was a resident of the shelter at the time of the assaults, but left on June 26.

The 33-year-old victim said that after searching for the perpetrator in the surrounding area and being unable to locate him, officers from the 104 Precinct took their statements, and a photo of the suspect from the cemetery’s security footage.

No arrests have been made in regards to this incident, and the victim feels “blown off” by the cops.

“It felt like the detective that I spoke to a few days later was blowing me off. He didn’t seem to know about the security footage, even though both of the officers who responded saw it, and I believe one of them took a picture with his cell phone,” she previously told The Glendale Register. “It just kind of felt like nobody was going to do anything about it, or that it wasn’t an ‘important crime,’ like a ‘there are bigger fish to fry’ type of thing.

In a Facebook post to the Glendale Civic Association group, Wilkinson said that Deputy Inspector Kevin Coleman, the 104’s new commanding officer, had not seen the photo of the suspect that was posted online.

Her post also says that the officers claim there were no witnesses, and that they’d been looking for the security camera footage of the attacks.

“Since they collected the screenshot, if the police followed up with the shelter that day, they could have arrested that man,” Wilkinson said. “I think what [Holden] was most upset about was that we used to get notified by Community Affairs that a pattern was occurring and to be alert, but we’re not getting that anymore.”

She brought up the recent robbery pattern across neighborhoods in Queens, one of which happened on 80th Street and Cooper Avenue in Glendale—where an elderly man was shoved to the ground and his gold chain was removed by two individuals on a moped.

“The civic groups have been very upset lately because the communication has been lackluster coming from the precincts,” Wilkinson said. “We find out about crimes in the newspaper or on TV that are happening in our own neighborhood, and we feel that there needs to be better communication from the precinct.”

The assault victim said that she’s lived in Glendale for most of her life, and has never felt unsafe—but is now on high alert when she goes out.

“I feel like there’s somebody still out there who maybe is looking to harm people or possibly doesn’t even remember harming people, depending on what his situation is,” she said. “I almost feel like nothing’s going to happen unless he does something again.”
Wilkinson feels that the homeless shelter is actively harming Glendale and its surrounding neighborhoods.

“It’s just been a revolving door of people who really need to be monitored, and they’re not,” she said. “Most of them don’t even know where they are, so they’re wandering around performing crimes of opportunity. Many of them have mental health or substance abuse issues… I don’t know why anybody would think this would be something that would enhance the community rather than be a detriment.”

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