The incident occurred amid spiking cases of unruly passengers on flights during the pandemic. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 14 (UPI) -- Police in Texas have arrested a 32-year-old passenger of a Southwest Airlines flight accused of punching an airlines official that resulted in her hospitalization.
Southwest Airlines in a statement emailed to UPI on Sunday said the incident occurred shortly after the boarding of Flight 4976 from Dallas Love Field to La Guardia, New York City, on Saturday, stating the suspect "verbally and physically" assaulted one of its operations agents.
Dallas police identified the suspect as Arielle Jean Jackson, accusing her of entering a "verbal altercation" at the back of the plane with an airline employee who ordered her to get off the flight, WFAA reported.
According to authorities, Jackson moved to the front of the plane where she argued with the Southwest Airlines operations agent whom she then punched in the head.
Southwest Airlines said Jackson was taken into police custody while its unidentified operations agent was transferred to a local hospital. She has since been released from the hospital and was resting at home, the carrier said.
"Our entire Southwest family is wishing her a speedy and full recovery as we send our thoughts, prayers and love to her," the airline said. "Southwest Airlines maintains a zero-tolerance policy regarding any type of harassment or assault and fully support our employee as we cooperate with local authorities regarding this unacceptable incident."
The arrest occurred amid soaring incidents of unruly airlines passengers during the pandemic.
According to data from the Federal Aviation Administration, as of Tuesday there have been 5,114 reported incidents of unruly passengers this year with more than 3,700 related to the wearing of masks.
The FAA on Wednesday said it imposed more than $225,000 in fines against 10 airline passengers for unruly behavior that involved physical assault.
The administration, which instituted a zero tolerance policy in January to bring fines of up to $35,000 against passengers, said it has received more than 100 reports of passenger disturbances involving physical assault this year.
Due to the surge, the Justice Department last week announced it has created an information-sharing protocol for the FAA to refer unruly passenger cases to the FBI for review of potential criminal charges.