Man kicked off Atlanta flight, assaults gate agent

Police said the man “refused to comply” with flight attendants as a Southwest Airlines flight taxied from the gate to the tarmac.

ATLANTA — A man who was escorted from a flight at the Atlanta Airport for “aggressive behavior” then allegedly assaulted a Southwest Airlines gate employee Tuesday is now facing charges.

A Southwest Airlines gate agent told Atlanta Police the man started “behaving disorderly” after being asked to get off a flight and then assaulted him.

According to a statement from police, the man “refused to comply” with flight attendants as a Southwest Airlines flight taxied from the gate to the tarmac. Police said because of his “aggressive behavior,” officials were forced to return the plane to the gate and the man was asked to leave the flight.

After he was escorted off the plane, police said he threatened a Southwest gate agent multiple times and assaulted him.

a video of the incident posted to social media shows a man taking his shirt off and approaching a gate agent at the airport while other staff members attempt to deescalate the situation, creating a barrier between both he and the employee.

The passenger is now facing simple battery, battery and obstruction charges in the incident, according to police. Authorities took him to the Clayton County Jail.

Unruly passengers on flights have been an ongoing issue that has worsened for airlines since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. In January of 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration announced the organization was no longer giving disorderly passengers warnings and the first response to rowdy conduct would be, from then on, legal enforcement action.

At the time, the Federal Aviation Administration said there had been “a disturbing increase in incidents where airline passengers have disrupted flights with threatening or violent behavior. These incidents have stemmed both from passengers’ refusals to wear masks and from recent violence at the US Capitol .”

Last September, Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines shared over 1,000 people were forbidden from flying with them. They then publicly released a statement, requesting other airlines share their “no-fly” lists as part of an effort to protect airline employees across the nation.

Months later in February, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said in a letter that passenger incidents on its flights went up 100% since 2019.

Southwest has previously declined to provide figures related to their list of banned customers. 11Alive has reached out to Southwest regarding the incident that transpired at the Atlanta airport on Tuesday, but they have not yet responded.

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