Miami News

1 Passenger Defies Mask Mandate on London-bound Flight that Returns to Miami and has to Deboard

The unruly passenger against mask mandates trend continues as flight AAL38 returns to Miami International Airport after traveling approximately 500 miles.

On January 20, 2022, an American Airlines flight AAL38 headed to London, and carrying 129 passengers, departed Miami International Airport (MIA), only to initiate a turnaround over the North Carolina coast. After traveling a distance of approximately 500 miles, the crew was forced to return after an unruly passenger in her 40s refused to comply with the federal mask mandate requirement.

Officers from the Miami-Date Police Department (MDPD) entered the plane after it landed at the airport, escorting the unruly passenger off the plane and handing her off to the airlines’ ground staff. An investigation was launched, and the passenger entered the “internal refuse list” almost right away.

While how this recent incident unfolded raises several questions, unruly passenger behavior had grown increasingly common across the United States even before the federal mask mandate came into effect.

The Concerning Rise in Mask Mandate-related Incidents in 2021

According to a report released by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the national aviation reports an average of 16 unruly passenger reports in a day. In 2021, a total of 5,981 reports were filed, out of which 4,290 were mask-related incidents.

Although there was a promising 50% drop in unruly behavior around September 2021 ended with an alarming 494% increase in reported cases compared to the past 25 years.

While the incidents ranged from mild to serious, the latter made news headlines locally and internationally.

Passenger Restrained After Groping, Punching Flight Crew

In August 2021, Maxwell Perry, 22, boarded a Miami-bound Frontier Airlines flight and was tied to his seat by a flight attendant after he groped one flight attendant and punched two others. A criminal complaint was subsequently filed against the Ohio local who was charged with three counts of battery.

Flight inbound to London deboards in Miami after a passenger refused to comply with the mask mandate.

Passenger Faces Conviction After Punching Flight Attendant

In a separate incident that occurred in May 2021, Vivianna M. Quinonez, 28, repeatedly punched a Southwest Airlines flight attendant in the face until another passenger stopped her.

The flight attendant was reportedly doing a routine round and had asked Quinonez to put on her seatbelt, put up her tray table, and straighten her mask. The passenger responded by filming the flight attendant, pushing, and then finally punching, leaving the latter bloody and bruised.

Quinonez pled guilty to all charges in late December and, if convicted, could face a maximum of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

The New Year Off to a Less-than-Promising Start

As of January 18, 2022, the FAA has initiated 151 reports of unruly passenger behavior, of which 92 were mask-related, continuing the upward trend from last year. The flight 38 incident remains one-of-a-kind because the flight managed to take off only to be diverted.

Despite imposing a penalty of $500-$1,000 on first-time offenders and $1,000-$3,000 on repeat offenders, it remains unclear whether TSA will fine the unruly passenger in this incident.

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