James Reynolds, Daily Mail, June 6, 2023
An American Airlines passenger is paying $42,128 in restitution after an outburst in which she spat on a fellow flier, opened the emergency exit and jumped down the slide.
Cynthia McKnight, 24 from Rochester, has been sentenced to time served and three months’ probation after pleading guilty to two counts of simple assault.
Court documents say she became ‘irate’ after staff asked her to put away her phone as the plane prepared for takeoff, on a flight from Buffalo to Chicago last April.
The US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of New York said Friday that she had ‘engaged in a verbal altercation with one passenger, then spat on another.’
When the aircraft was forced to return to its gate, McKnight was said to have opened the emergency door and jumped down the inflatable slide onto the tarmac.
Officials said last year she managed to get across the open the main boarding door, causing the inflatable slide to deploy automatically, which she jumped down.
When she noticed a fellow flier filming her she became irritated and spat at them, the affidavit said.
She was quickly caught and taken into custody, telling officials she had been drinking.
A contemporary statement from American Airlines read: ‘The individual was quickly apprehended by local law enforcement and has been placed on American’s internal refuse list pending further investigation.
‘We thank our team members for their professionalism and action to ensure the safety of our customers and crew.’
Spencer Brown, offensive tackle for the Buffalo Bills, was on board the flight .
He tweeted the commotion, writing: ‘Sitting on a plane. A lady is p***ed. Lady pulls the emergency inflatable slide to escape the plane. Lady is running wild through the tarmac currently. Cops have arrived. Flight ruined. Memories made.’
The flight was taken out of service after the incident and the 65 passengers on board provided with alternative transport to Chicago O’Hare International Airport.
American Airlines estimated that the cost of rebooking passengers and replacing the emergency slide would have cost around $50,000.
She agreed to pay $42,128 in restitution The Independent reported.
In January, U.S. Attorney Trini E. Ross announced that McKnight had pleaded guilty to two counts of simple assault in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, which each carry a maximum penalty of six months in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Since the pandemic, the number of reported ‘air rage’ cases has spiked.
A typical year could have seen 100 to 150 reports, according to CNBC, but in 2021 there were 5,700 reported.
Mask compliance was a major cause of conflict and frustration as lockdown rules eased up.
Alcohol also proves a common factor in abuse, with airlines including American Airlines placing new restrictions on consumption in recent years.
The trend has been reported worldwide; in the UK, air rage incidents trebled between 2022 and 2019.
Globally, incidents with unruly passengers on flights rose by almost 50 per cent in 2022 compared with the previous year, according to a new report.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) gathered data recording one incident for every 568 flights across 2022 compared to one incident for every 835 flights in 2021 – around a 47 per cent increase.
Non-compliance with flight staff instructions, verbal abuse, and drunkenness accounted for the three most common incidents, IATA recorded.
In March, an American Airlines passenger was arrested after ‘urinating’ on a fellow passenger.
Aryan Vohra was arrested and banned from future flights after the incident on a flight from New York to New Delhi.
In January, a vice president at banking giant Wells Fargo was fired after he was accused of urinating on a 72-year-old woman while traveling between New York City and Mumbai.