Woman is duct-taped to her seat after trying to open plane door midflight
July 12, 2021
By Paulina Villegas, Washington Post
The 190 passengers of American Airlines’ Flight 1774 boarded the plane last week in an orderly manner and took their seats for an approximately two-hour ride from Dallas-Fort Worth to Charlotte.
Elizabeth LaClair was sitting in Row 2 when she heard a woman sitting behind her say to the man next to her that she did not want the plane “to fly up anymore,” becoming increasingly unsettled.
“She just seemed off and very odd,” said LaClair, who was flying back home to Augusta, Ga., after hiking in Utah.
“She started getting more and more agitated and very loud, and the man sitting next to her, along with the flight attendants, kindly tried to console her and calm her, but nothing worked,” LaClair added.
Suddenly, the woman who appeared to be in her 30s and had green hair, ran to the door and tried to open it, LaClair said.
Flight attendants ran and “tackled” the woman, then restrained her wrists and feet with duct tape and what appeared to be zip ties, LaClair added.
“It was the look of pure shock of someone who has been a flight attendant for many years and is thinking, I can’t believe this is happening,” she said.
After being partially restrained in a crew area, LaClair said, the woman seemed to become more erratic and violent by the minute, kicking and screaming expletives, causing “a ruckus.”
That is when the flight attendants asked passengers in the rows ahead of and behind the woman to stand up so employees could subdue her and duct-tape her to the seat.
American Airlines confirmed the incident in a statement sent to The Washington Post on Sunday, saying that as the commotion developed, the crew reported a “potential security concern” after the woman tried to open a boarding door and “physically assaulted and bit a flight attendant.”
“The individual was restrained until the flight landed at CLT [Charlotte] and could be met by law enforcement and emergency personnel,” the statement said. “We applaud our crew for their professionalism and quick effort to protect those on board.”
The pilot told passengers to stay in their seats and said there was “a problem in the plane,” but did not offer further details, leaving other passengers in the back of the plane confused and unaware of what was happening.
A spokesperson for American Airlines did not respond to further questions about the episode, including whether the company’s policy allows the use of duct tape to restrain passengers who endanger others, but the spokesperson said the woman will be barred from its flights pending further investigation.
The Federal Aviation Administration has reported a recent increase in the number of reports of unruly behavior on flights. In May, the agency said it was reviewing 1,300 reports of passengers behaving badly on flights since February — after initiating 1,300 such cases in the decade prior.
In May, a 28-year-old woman on a Southwest Airline flight was accused of attacking a flight attendant after she ignored instructions as the plane landed in San Diego. She was arrested after allegedly giving the crew member serious bodily injuries, including the loss of two teeth.
“This unprecedented number of incidents has reached an intolerable level, with passenger non-compliance events also becoming more aggressive in nature,” said Lyn Montgomery, president of Transport Workers Union Local 556 in a letter to Southwest Airlines CEO.
The plane from last week’s incident landed about 3:20 a.m. on Wednesday at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, where police and emergency personnel boarded the aircraft “to provide treatment and transport the customer to a local hospital for evaluation,” American Airlines said.
A video posted on TikTok showed the woman wearing a purple shirt, strapped to her seat with silver duct tape over her mouth and around her arms and chest, screaming what sounds like “You! You! You!” as passengers exited the aircraft past her and flight attendants calmly saw people off.
Even after being fully restrained, the woman continued to yell obscenities throughout the flight, LeClair said.
“All we wanted was for the flight to land, which felt like an eternity,” LaClair said, praising the flight crew for its quick response and for keeping the passengers safe in a volatile situation.