Orlando travelers arrested for spitting and punching flight attendants

As the air rage continues, dozens of airline passengers have been arrested for disorderly conduct and violent behavior at Orlando International Airport during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Credit: Orlando International Airport (MCO)

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According to Click Orlandorecords show Orlando police had to arrest dozens of travelers for alleged crimes, including beating airline employees, fighting with other passengers in the gate area, throwing food at members of staff and attempting to board aircraft after being denied entry due to being drunk or otherwise behaving inappropriately.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, 5,981 reports of unruly passengers were made last year, which is a significant increase from just 146 complaints in 2019, which was before the ongoing pandemic.

We would like to emphasize that incidents on airport lands are distinct from those on board an aircraft.

Orlando International Airport
Credit: Hyatt Regency

“Air rage is nothing new. But what we saw in 2021 was out of the ordinary,” said Taylor Garland, spokesperson for the Association of Flight Attendants – CWA. “It’s not something we’re prepared to accept.”

After the ongoing pandemic hit the United States in 2020, many airlines and airports implemented new security protocols to stay in compliance with current CDC recommendations and the federal mandate. One of these protocols includes wearing an appropriate face covering inside the airport and on board the aircraft. It seems that wearing the mask has caused a lot of rage in the air, according to members of the airline.

Mitra Amirzadeh, an Orlando-based flight attendant and union member, said:

“It’s happening here in Orlando, the ‘House of Mouse’ where everyone comes on vacation. I have all these families and all these kids on board, and the next thing you know, someone is arguing and swearing. Anywhere on a mask.

Orlando International Airport tarmac
Credit: Orlando International Airport

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Amirzadeh went on to explain that some of his colleagues have even been physically assaulted. She said Click Orlando:

“There are flight attendants being spat on, grabbed or touched inappropriately. I personally know gate attendants (who have been) beaten so badly they had to be pulled out and taken to hospital with a knot in the side of their head.

Orlando International Airport
Credit: Orlando International Airport

The Orlando Police Department responds to incidents that occur inside Orlando International Airport or when an aircraft is parked at a gate. Orlando Deputy Police Chief James Young explained, “When a passenger becomes unruly on the ground, it could jeopardize the entire flight, and it could jeopardize an entire airport system and its operation.”

He continued:

“Our officers do a great job of trying to defuse these situations as much as possible when they arrive on the scene. But sometimes you’ll still see the passenger still very angry, still very upset. At some point, (the officers) will have to act.In some cases, individuals are arrested because of criminal allegations.

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Face masks aren’t the only issue or the only reason there’s been an increase in air rage over the past year, according to the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA.

“Traveling is incredibly stressful, especially during an ongoing pandemic,” Garland said. “Already agitated passengers go to ‘level 10’ much faster and are much more violent than they have ever been.”

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The union believes that the increase in alcohol sales at many airports and the availability of take-out drinks have had a major impact on air rage and these incidents.

“Passengers can order alcohol at the gate and can drink until they board the plane,” Garland said. “The more drunk a passenger is, the less willing he will be to comply with the instructions of crew members.”

When the pandemic started, most airlines suspended alcohol sales during flights. However, as the world continues to move forward amid the ongoing pandemic, many have since resumed service.

Many arrested passengers have since admitted to being under the influence, which they believe plays a role in their behavior. “I’m (expletive) up, I know. I drank too much,” William Kashner told Orlando police after he allegedly pushed and punched a gate officer’s chest in November.

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Credit: ITM

And Hayley Agueda was accused of punching an Orlando airline worker in the jaw as the worker tried to drag her off the plane for yelling and swearing in June 2021. According to court records, she subsequently pleaded no contest to misdemeanor battery and was sentenced to the two days she had previously served in jail and six months probation. She also had to take an anger management course.

“I guess I’m sorry. I was a little drunk,” Agueda told News 6.

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Credit: ITM

According to court records, a large percentage of passengers arrested at Orlando International Airport in 2021 were charged with minor offenses, which carry maximum penalties of a year or less in prison.

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