MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – A Frontier Airlines executive says the violent confrontation between a passenger and flight attendants that was caught on camera this past weekend “definitely was a very serious situation.”
Local 10 News first reported Monday about the arrest of a 22-year-old man on three counts of battery after he was accused of attacking a male flight attendant and groping the breasts of two female flight attendants during a Frontier trip from Philadelphia to Miami on Saturday.
The situation got so bad that flight attendants retrained Maxwell Berry with a seat belt extender and duct-taped him to his seat.
“Flight attendants in their initial training and recurrent training learn a lot of different techniques in how to keep control of the cabin, because safety is paramount when you’re flying,” Tyri Squyres, VP of marketing for Frontier Airlines, said Tuesday.
Squyres and other Frontier executives were at Miami International Airport to announce that the company is adding flights to 10 destinations this November, including Aruba.
The incident Saturday night started with a profanity-laced tirade from Berry directed at a flight attendant, which was caught on cell phone video.
Local 10 spoke exclusively with the passenger who recorded the video.
“He started to get aggressive and then basically attack the male flight attendant,” Alfredo Rivera said.
Miami-Dade County police say Berry had a few alcoholic drinks, then groped the breasts of two female flight attendants and punched a male flight attendant, prompting crew members to subdue him.
“After an incident like this we are going to do a thorough investigation and really view what happened and how it was handled to make sure that everything is done properly and followed procedures,” Squyres said.
The flight attendants have been placed on paid leave during the investigation.
A flight attendant union has called on Frontier Airlines to support its crews immediately.
“Flight Attendants have faced an onslaught of disruptions on our flights this year. The situation on Frontier this weekend is one of the worst examples,” Association of Flight Attendants-CWA President Sara Nelson said in a statement. “A drunk and irate passenger verbally, physically, and sexually assaulted multiple members of the crew. When he refused to comply after multiple attempts to de-escalate, the crew was forced to restrain the passenger with the tools available to them onboard. We are supporting the crew.
“Management suspended the crew as a knee-jerk reaction to a short video clip that did not show the full incident. Management should be supporting the crew at this time not suspending them. We will be fighting this with every contractual and legal tool available, but we would hope there will be no need for that as management comes to their senses and supports the people on the frontline charged with keeping all passengers safe. As noted in our unruly passenger survey, if this is not immediately corrected, Flight Attendants may feel unsafe to come to work. Management has a legal duty to maintain a safe work environment for employees.”
Frontier Airlines released a new statement later Tuesday, saying:
“During a flight from Philadelphia to Miami on July 31, a passenger made inappropriate physical contact with two flight attendants and subsequently physically assaulted another flight attendant. As a result, the passenger needed to be restrained until the flight landed in Miami and law enforcement arrived. Frontier Airlines maintains the utmost value, respect, concern and support for all of our flight attendants, including those who were assaulted on this flight. We are supporting the needs of these team members and are working with law enforcement to fully support the prosecution of the passenger involved. The inflight crew members’ current paid leave status is in line with an event of this nature pending an investigation.”