A passenger entered the cockpit of an American Airlines plane during boarding in Honduras on Tuesday, damaged the plane’s controls and tried to jump out an open window, the airline said — the latest incident amid a rise in unruly behavior by passengers in the last year.
The unnamed passenger entered an open cockpit door and “caused damage to the aircraft” after boarding the Miami-bound plane — a Boeing 737 — in the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula, American Airlines told Forbes.
After damaging the plane’s controls, the passenger tried to climb out of the cockpit’s open window, according to the airline (the story was first reported by ABC News).
The plane’s crew intervened, and the suspect was apprehended by police.
The flight was initially set to depart San Pedro Sula at 2:58 p.m. local time, but American Airlines said it was forced to send another plane and planned to depart about six-and-a-half hours after the scheduled time.
“We applaud our outstanding crew members for their professionalism in handling a difficult situation,” the airline said in a statement.
As air travel recovers from Covid-induced doldrums, U.S. airline workers and government agencies have reported a startling uptick in altercations with ornery and violent passengers over the last year. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration opened over 1,000 investigations into misbehavior last year, up from 183 in 2020 and 146 in 2019. More than 70% of the FAA’s nearly 6,000 total reports of unruly passengers in 2021 were related to the federal airline mask mandate, but flight attendants say they’ve also encountered drunk and verbally abusive passengers. Some incidents have garnered headlines. A Frontier Airlines passenger was taped to his seat after allegedly groping two flight attendants in July, two passengers reportedly got into a fistfight over a seat recliner on a regional American Eagle flight in August, and American Airlines diverted a plane in October after a passenger allegedly punched a flight attendant.
The FAA responded to the surge in unruly behavior by imposing a “zero tolerance” policy last year, handing out more than a million dollars in fines to passengers accused of violent or threatening behavior while in the air. The U.S. Department of Justice also said in November it would prioritize criminal charges against some offenders, after airline trade groups and labor unions pushed U.S. officials to crack down on unsafe inflight behavior.