A Tennessee-based woman is accused of starting a drunken brawl with cabin crew aboard a flight and faces federal charges that could result in up to 20 years in prison.
Amanda Henry, from Lebanon, Tennessee, was on a Spirit Airlines flight from Fort Lauderdale to Nashville on 27 November when the altercation broke out.
According to records from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Middle District, Tennessee, she allegedly assaulted two flight attendants while drunk.
The Attorney’s Office statement says Ms Henry “became disruptive and appeared to be intoxicated” before having to be moved from her seat beside an emergency exit “for the safety of everyone on board”.
Reports say she refused to move seats and ran toward the front of the aircraft screaming, “I’m getting off this plane.”
Ms Henry was also accused of hitting and kicking the flight attendant who was trying to stop her getting to the cabin door, as well as another who tried to restrain her.
“In accordance with the Attorney General’s directive, the prosecution of those who endanger the safety of airline passengers, flight crews, and flight attendants is a priority of this office,” said US Attorney Mark H. Wildasin.
“Those whose behavior disrupts or otherwise endangers the safety of persons on aircrafts should expect to face federal charges.”
Incidents of “air rage” have risen sharply during the Covid-19 pandemic, with the US’s mask mandate thought to be linked to many disruptions.
The Federal Airline Association (FAA) reported 4,600 incidents between January and early October 2021 – 72 per cent of which related to non-compliance with the country’s nationwide rule that everyone must wear a mask on planes and in airports.
Meanwhile, an Association of Flight Attendants survey of nearly 5,000 crew this summer found that 85 per cent had dealt with disruptive passengers this year; of those incidents, 17 per cent had escalated to physical altercations.
The Independent has contacted Spirit Airlines for comment.