Three women are facing federal charges after attacking an airline security worker who tried to block them from boarding a flight at New York’s John F Kennedy Airport in September because of what prosecutors say was problematic behaviour, including a refusal to wear a face mask properly.
The three were released on $25,000 bond each after their arraignment on Thursday in federal court in Brooklyn.
Prosecutors said in court papers that the women were trying to board a Delta Air Lines flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico, on September 22. They had ordered a total of about nine alcoholic drinks in four hours at airport bars while waiting for a delayed departure, prosecutors said.
When the three arrived at the departure gate, the flight crew decided they should not be allowed on because they were acting belligerent, with one not wearing her mask as required by federal regulation and another appearing disoriented and having trouble walking, prosecutors said.
A Delta security officer and a gate agent approached the trio in the jet bridge and asked them to go back, saying they could take a flight later in the day, prosecutors’ court papers show.
They said the women refused, with one of them hitting the security officer in the head with his two-way radio, another punching the gate agent in the face when the agent tried to intervene and the third stepping on the security officer’s face as all three kicked and hit him after he fell to the floor.
The flight crew eventually pulled the man behind some jet bridge doors and held them shut as the women lashed out at the crew, prosecutors said.
The gate agent and the security officer were taken to hospital and have not yet returned to work.
“The extreme and aggressive behaviour in connection with our air travel is out of control,” Brooklyn US Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement.
US airlines reported more than 5,000 episodes involving unruly passengers last year, including more than 3,600 cases of people reportedly refusing to wear face masks as required.
Airlines and their worker unions have been pushing authorities to be more aggressive about criminal prosecution in severe cases of air rage.