Last week’s announcement that three Delta Air Lines passengers face federal charges for allegedly assaulting an airline security officer and gate agent is welcome news to airport workers who have faced increased physical and verbal abuse while on the job.
During the pandemic, agents have added to their list of duties, enforcing federal mask requirements and securing access to the aircraft from aggressive, often physically violent passengers. Alcohol consumption is often a contributing factor in passenger assaults.
“We are aggressively addressing this emerging threat and take all cases seriously,” said FBI New York Field Office Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael J. Driscoll.
“These types of incidents are all too common, but until now federal enforcement of laws against assaulting airport customer service representatives and gate agents has been rare,” said Richard Honeycutt, Vice President of CWA District 3 and Chair of CWA's Passenger Service Airline Council. “Assistant Director Driscoll’s comments are encouraging. We are hopeful that this represents a new commitment by the Department of Justice to providing clear guidance and support for airport police departments and local law enforcement agencies in responding to these violent attacks.”
CWA represents more than 20,000 passenger service agents who work for American Airlines and its wholly owned subsidiaries, Envoy Air and Piedmont Airlines. They are responsible for assisting passengers and keeping air travel on schedule and safe, despite working in constant fear of retaliation from disgruntled passengers. In a recent internal survey, 230 passenger service agents reported experiencing varying degrees of physical and verbal aggression. Across the responses, agents report these passengers are rarely held accountable when they threaten employees or endanger other passengers.
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