Man jailed for racial abuse and ‘lunging at’ cabin crew in mask row

·2-min read
A flight from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Las Vegas, Nevada, usually takes about four-and-a-half hours  (Getty Images)
A flight from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Las Vegas, Nevada, usually takes about four-and-a-half hours (Getty Images)

An American Airlines passenger who racially abused at least one member of cabin crew has been jailed for 40 days and ordered to pay $8,000 (£6,500) to the company.

A court heard on Tuesday how James Maloney, 37, from Honeoye in New York, caused the Las Vegas-bound flight from Charlotte, North Carolina to be diverted to St. Louis, Missouri,in 2020.

In April this year, he pleaded guilty to one felony count of interference with crew members by assault. On Tuesday, he was sentenced to jail and ordered to pay a fine.

The incident occurred on 12 September 2020 – several months into the Covid-19 pandemic – and started when a flight attendant saw that Maloney had his face mask off and was drinking a beer he had not purchased on the plane.

When the flight attendant requested that he put his mask on, Maloney used expletives and racial slurs against the flight crew, according to the Eastern District of Missouri branch of the US Attorney’s Office.

When the cabin crew members handed the defendant a final written warning, he told them that he would crumple up the paper and throw it in their face.

On his return from the toilet, Maloney became agitated when he did not see his girlfriend at their seats.

He then got into an argument with a flight attendant and lunged toward them. His girlfriend grabbed him before he could hit the staff member.

After the plane was diverted and had landed in St. Louis, Maloney shouted and swore at airport officers as they arrested him and took him to a police station.

In court, US District Judge John A. Ross said that Maloney’s behaviour was “outrageous,” adding: “The terror that people had to feel – it’s inexcusable.”

Maloney has been banned from drinking alcohol. Ross also ordered Maloney to do 100 hours of community service in addition to substance abuse testing and treatment, and mental health counselling.

The money he had to pay to American Airlines is said by the court to meet some of the costs and fees that the company incurred for the delay.

Airlines saw a distinct spike in the number of disruptive passenger incidents during the pandemic, with many mid-air brawls involving alcohol and disagreements over mask-wearing.

One airline staffer told UK press last week that cabin crew remain concerned for their safety as a result of the increase in confrontations and violent outbursts.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting