A flight attendants union is pleading for more travel safeguards after an attack against a crew member on a Southwest flight over the weekend. Per a letter from Lyn Montgomery, president of Transport Workers Union Local 556, to the airline's CEO, a flight attendant was "seriously assaulted" by a passenger on a flight from Sacramento, Calif., to San Diego on Sunday morning, which caused injuries to the flight attendant's face and the loss of two teeth, reports USA Today. A Southwest spokesman confirmed the verbal and physical assault and said the passenger was taken into custody. "Unfortunately, this is just one of many occurrences," Montgomery wrote, noting an "unprecedented number" of passenger misconduct incidents in recent weeks that are now at an "intolerable level," with passengers becoming more and more aggressive. According to union statistics, there have been 477 such incidents on Southwest flights between April 8 and May 15.
Southwest isn't the only airline facing these issues: The FAA says it's received about 2,500 reports of unruly passengers since Jan. 1, with about 1,900 of them tied to passengers not complying with face mask rules. A typical year sees 100 to 150 such reports. The agency has already proposed stiff fines for a number of the alleged offenders. The Southwest flight attendants union is asking management for backup, especially as more people start flying again and consuming alcohol in an "already volatile environment," per Montgomery's letter. Among the union's demands: an increase in the number of federal air marshals on flights; consistency in consequences for those who violate airline policies; and better communication with passengers that "egregious behavior" could lead to fines, jail time, and a lifetime ban from flying Southwest. "We ask that you take a strong stance to ensure that unruly passengers are not welcome to travel with us. Period. Full stop," the letter notes. (Read more Southwest Airlines stories.)