Arrested for Striking an Airline Supervisor

July 18, 2014

in Airport Stories

At approximately 3:40 p.m. on March 8, 2012, I arrived at the El Paso airport and dropped off my rental car. I had just returned from testifying at a New Mexico Child Support Hearing in Las Cruces, New Mexico, by subpoena because my Ex was in arrears on his child support. Upon doing so, I then checked in at Southwest Airlines and received my boarding pass from the agent.

Around 8:45 p.m. I heard an announcement that my plane was late and that boarding would not begin until 9:30 p.m. As the announcement came on to begin to line up, I realized I was in section C and there were three of us in that section and at the tail end of the plane.

I was just about to board the plane with my purse and carry-on bag after walking down the ramp to the plane, when I heard a loud, “Stop!” I looked up and the flight attendant was holding her hand in front of my face. I was so startled by this I could feel my heart racing. She snapped, “You can’t bring that bag on the plane,” as she was pointing to my carry-on.

I asked, “Why?”

She responded, “The plane is full and there is no more room for your bag. You need to exit this area and go and check it to be flown under the plane.”

I replied, “That’s impossible, I’ll miss the plane.”

She repeated her directive. I asked to speak to a supervisor. She indicated I needed to exit the area and return to the waiting/boarding area and she would call and have a supervisor meet me there.

As I walked up the ramp I was terrified of being stranded, alone, crippled and broke. I could feel my body trembling all over and I my legs felt weak. When I reached the top of the ramp and walked out into the waiting area, I saw the agent who gave me the boarding pass when I checked in, and another man in a white shirt, tie and pants walking towards me. When they reached me, the supervisor asked me what the problem was. I repeated what the flight attendant told me. I told him that I didn’t want to miss the plane.

Then I asked the man who gave me the boarding pass why he didn’t tell me that the plane didn’t have room for the same carry-on I carried on the flight to El Paso the day before. He did not respond. I then looked at the supervisor and asked him, “Why didn’t you find me in the gate area or make an announcement, because I was sitting there for 45-60 minutes before the plane began boarding?” He shrugged his shoulders and he reiterated to me again what the flight attendant had said. I exclaimed, “I’ll be stranded in El Paso if I have to go and check my bag in now!” The supervisor pointed me back toward TSA down to baggage check-in. Suddenly, without premeditation, I slapped him on the right cheek.

He retaliated by saying, “I bet you want to slap me again! Go ahead, hit me again!”

I was so shocked by what I had done. I backed up a couple of steps and said, “No, I do not.”

He began hollering for the police and yelled at me that he was going to press charges against me. I observed the airport police walking towards me. Suddenly my legs buckled and I landed on the floor, covered my eyes and began wailing. Four police officers struggled with me on the floor as jewelry and glasses went flying off. I was taken to the airport police station where I was handcuffed to a bar for over 40 minutes. One cop was screaming at me as to how much trouble I was in. I was later taken to the El Paso County Detention Center and booked for a Class A Assault on the supervisor. One day later, I bailed out and took a Greyhound bus home and arrived in Prescott, Arizona at 5: 00 a.m. on 3/12/2012. As far as I know, I was the only passenger on that flight that was bumped off of the plane.

At the time of this event, I had been under extreme stress and duress, coupled with chronic mental and physical health issues I have been dealing with for years, and under Doctor’s care. The supervisor and I both behaved poorly in this stressful situation. I truly regret it. I am sorry it occurred. I tried to contact Southwest Airlines in an effort to ask them to investigate the incident and possibly drop the charges (i.e. E.B., Southwest Customer Relations Officer), but to no avail.

After returning to Prescott, Arizona, I took pictures of all of the cuts and bruises that I experienced during my tussle with the airport cops. I began researching on-line because I couldn’t believe what Southwest Airlines had done to me. What I learned blew my mind! Southwest Airlines has a history of violating federal rules regarding passengers denied boarding. Unfortunately my attorney, R.M., didn’t feel it was relevant so he did not present this information in court, despite them having a record of not providing prominent notice when they overbook, not informing passengers that they are eligible for compensation, paying a $200,000 civil penalty, and promising the federal government they’d stop doing that on or about April 27, 2010.

Mr. M. was unsuccessful in getting the charge reduced to Disorderly Conduct or a Class C misdemeanor due to my diminished capacity. The case went through a bench trial, where I was found guilty because I was truthful about slapping the supervisor one time on the cheek while suffering a severe panic attack. I paid my $500.00 fine within 30 days after that. Then, there were several other motions and hearings after January, and I’m still really confused about that, but as of April 14, 2014, the case was finally closed. My 24 hour quick trip has turned into a 2 year nightmare. Prosecutor A.M.’s justice has destroyed my career and now I’m unable to work in my chosen field. I wonder what it’s like to be the Rainmaker.

Editor’s note: Full names were abbreviated for privacy purposes.

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

shira July 19, 2014 at 4:46 am

I'm sorry you went thru a tough time in your life but you assaulted an airline worker. There ius no excuse for that ( unless they had assaulted you first which was not the case). It may be the case that this specific airline is doing things wrong, but the way to fix that is not by hutting someone. The prosecutor didn't destroy your career, you did.


Dave July 19, 2014 at 7:55 am

First of all, if the overhead bins fill up on any airline, they can check your bag right from the gate. Normally it just takes a minute to print the sticker and out it on your bag. There is no reason for anyone to have to go back out to the main ticket counter for this.


John July 19, 2014 at 9:05 am

My opinion what you experienced, regardless of the circumstances, was a stupid attack


Anthony July 19, 2014 at 9:01 pm

Like the person above said, when the overhead bins fill up you have to check your bag. That’s why they wouldn’t have told you coming out (there was no way for them to know your flight would fill up), but they usually do make announcements. Typically gate agents are more than happy to check bags at the gate, so I’m not sure why they didn’t present that as an option. Those situations where Southwest messed up denied boarding compensation only apply for passengers removed due to the plane being overweight, overbooked, etc. Luggage not fitting in the overhead bins isn’t an eligible situation.


Jim Smythee July 19, 2014 at 10:26 pm

I'm calling BS on this one. When the overhead bins are full, you can easily gate-check your bag.


Beth July 20, 2014 at 10:03 am

Let me count the ways in which you made this your own flight from hell.

1. The airline has no way to know if the bins will fill up ahead of time. When this happens, they gate check bags. Was yours too big and should have been checked because it wouldn't have fit in the overhead compartments? You don't say… but I'm calling BS on the fact that they made you go all the way outside security to check your bag, whatever the reason.

2. You hit someone. That's never acceptable. You ever hear the phrase 'you get more bees with honey'? Yeah – be nice to people and they will generally bend over backward for you. Argue and commit assault and battery? That's a one-way ticket to jail and the bus, as you found.

3. Now you were arrested and can't work in your profession? How is this the airline's fault? YOU hit someone. You're lucky you didn't end up in jail longer than you did.

4. What does Southwest's policy of overbooking have to do with anything? You got a seat on the plane and they were going to carry your luggage. Maybe not in the cabin with you as you wanted, but it was going to get there. ALL airlines overbook, this is why it behooves you to check-in as early as possible and get on the plane when they first announce you can board.

5. I loved your phrasing of 'he retaliated'. You had just HIT him! Retaliating would be him hitting you back, but he didn't. He got mad (which, although not professional, is definitely understandable).

You're glad I wasn't there – I would have filmed the whole thing and embarrassed you on Youtube.


Dan July 20, 2014 at 11:00 pm

So because you assaulted a supervisor, it’s Southwest Airlines’ fault you can’t work in your chosen field?


RedHead0186 July 21, 2014 at 12:22 pm

While I find it odd that they were asking you to leave the boarding area to check your bag (as others have said, you can easily check bags plane-side, I've done it myself), this story is still pretty ridiculous. Arguing that you had carried the same bag on the day before doesn't mean anything, as different planes have different size carry-on bins, and like others said, they don't know how full those bins are going to be ahead of time.

And, while I am sorry for what you were dealing with both medically and emotionally, if you knew you were at less than 100%, perhaps you shouldn't have flown, or brought someone with you. Flying is stressful, and if someone is prone to attacks they should try to mitigate them. Hitting an airline employee is serious business, and it sounds like he really did nothing to deserve it (though goading you after the fact sounds pretty unprofessional).

Also, why would they drop charges? Just because you said you were sorry? I'm sorry, but that's not how the law works. Regardless of what you were dealing with, you still broke the law. Also, the prosecutor did not destroy your career, he just did his job. Sadly, you destroyed your career when you made a poor choice to assault an airline employee.


AS July 22, 2014 at 4:39 am

Your ex is so lucky he’s your ex and not your current.


saffie July 22, 2014 at 8:37 am

I read this story the other day and decided to come back today to leave a comment. Noticed someone had gone through all these CORRECT posts blaming the passenger for her own flight from hell and voted them down. Guess the OP didn't like what you had to say. Anyway instead of commenting and saying the same thing everyone else knows, that OP caused her own troubles, I just went through and voted you guys up. To the OP I can only say: get help. And if you have the kids maybe the ex should keep them for a while until you sort your anger management issues.


James July 22, 2014 at 8:56 am

I think somebody needs to speak up for the original poster here.

First, I've read commentators suggest that someone undergoing emotional stress shouldn't fly, or should be "accompanies." We do not know the specifics of this woman's stress, though I'd guess a lot of it may have been financial: concerns about being able to provide for her child/children. She had flown to testify because her former spouse was in arrears with child support payments. That's certainly a probable cause for distress! One of the largest categories of families below the poverty line in the United States are divorced women with children. This is a kind of stress that is not normally "unstable."

Then, the Southwest gate agent told the woman she had to leave the secure area to check her bag, immediately before a late departure? First and foremost — that is wrong. Southwest should have gate checked the bag. If she was being denied boarding because of overbooking, they should have been honest about that, and paid compensation. Instead, it looks like the personnel behaved in an extremely dishonest fashion to save the company a denied boarding compensation expense, at best? To save the hassle of gate checking a bag at worst? What gives?

I can't imagine how distraught she may have been — I've not (yet?) been close to the edge financially, where I couldn't afford to miss a flight. However, if it is financial distress that is causing her stress, then I can see her being distraught at the costs being unjustly incurred upon her.

None of that excuses slapping the Southwest employee — but it may explain it.

But beyond that, machinery of the state doesn't help. There used to be a concept of "making the punishment fit the crime." as well as the concept of "forgiveness." It is clear from the description that this slap was not something that caused gross bodily harm, or even injury, except maybe to pride.

The original poster already missed her flight and ended up taking a bus home. After the apology was offered, that should have been "punishment that fit the crime," continuing to prosecute for the sake of a conviction was excessive.

As for destroying a career, I don't know what career that was. It is plausible that a conviction may have prevented her from working in a given field — my employer is required to screen applicants for certain convictions including assault, before extending employment offers. If she worked as a teacher, for example, that may preclude her employment (I do not know if an assault conviction is a disqualifying event for teaching — but if so, that's an example.) If so, then this is definitely not making the punishment fit the crime.

On a more general level, this has unfortunately been the trend in the United States — we have the largest prison population, absurd minimum sentences, absurd fines, and a militarized police. We use this to intimidate dissent (which is the real goal here, forcing not just compliance but obsequious compliance) and silence opposition.

The original poster is imperfect — one small mistake, in a moment of stress as a response to a damaging mistake by an airline. She deserves sympathy, not scorn.


RedHead0186 July 22, 2014 at 9:12 am

I will agree with you on most points. I was (one of) the people who suggested she should travel with someone. Yes, I'm sure financial stress was a big part, but she mentioned at least once that she had been under care for mental and physical illnesses, so it does go beyond that. Knowing that this trip alone would likely bring on even more stress (dealing with the ex, money, etc.), and knowing she had these prior issues and that flying/traveling was stressful, planning ahead and bringing a companion likely could have avoided this. Not that it's necessarily her 'fault' she was under all this stress, but a bit of foresight likely could have prevented this, that's all I was trying to say. And I do indeed sympathize with the situation, I'm sure it was awful to go through.

And, to a point, I do think the punishment fit the crime-she only paid a fine. If you fly, you have to know that messing with airline/airport personnel in any way is serious business. Does that fine fit the crime? Eh, debatable, honestly, but it's well-known that airports are places where there's no leniency. And I think you're right about whatever her field is/was being one with stricter background checks and this assault charge likely barred her from working there, but that's not the fault of the airline, either. She chose to work in a field where this was the case, and she chose to do something that could jeopardize it.

You are absolutely right about them making her go out all the way out to check her bag, that's ridiculous. But, still doesn't warrant slapping someone. I'm not trying to be mean or scornful here, just matter of fact. On a more general level, I think there was perhaps overreaction on both sides, but people do need to understand the consequences of their actions, unfortunately. I hope (in the sincerest, nicest way), that this woman is able to get some help for what she's dealing with.


Rich July 22, 2014 at 11:30 am

Ok, I too call BS on this story, and I think it is just that. A story. First, no airline tells you to leave the secure area to check a bag when they run out of bin space. The bag is gate checked and you, usually, have to pick up the bag at baggage claim. This is absolutely the way Southwest handles this. I fly almost weekly, most of that on Southwest. Not only do they gate check bags, I also have a hard time believing that they treated the OP as the story indicates. This story is very strongly tainted from the OPs point of view. To the point of being fabricated.


prp July 22, 2014 at 11:30 pm

Southwest is no ordinary Airline. I think they make up the rules as they go .
Most of their employees are on the lower end of the wage scale.
Like most things in life you get what you pay for…, and it looks like the bottom feeders
inhabit Southwest.


Rich July 23, 2014 at 7:43 am

You are correct, they are no ordinary airline. As to the rest of it I note that you give no specifics to backup your comments. I can only believe this to be written by someone who rarely flys with Southwest. I do so weekly. Their customer service if vastly better than any of the so called Majors. Do they always get it right, no. They don't make you feel like their problems are your fault either like other airlines I can mention. And they do work hard to make it right.


anonmousebites August 4, 2014 at 10:22 am

So if you are on a low wage you deserve to be assaulted? Wow


John P July 28, 2014 at 6:01 am

You assaulted the employee — if you can no longer work in your profession that means your superiors take a dim view of their employees assaulting people – itsyour own fault


anonmousebites August 4, 2014 at 1:14 am

You absolutely deserve everything that is coming to you! How dare you moan about cuts and bruises from being arrested when you chose to strike an employee. Yes it is poor customer service, but to assault someone doing their job is horrific.

Yes, you complain about being stressed but do you know what being assaulted at work causes? I hope the person you struck isn't stressed or experiences panic attacks. They will be scared of any confrontation with customers in the future.

And your ex stopped paying child support – I pity your kids with a violent thug as a mother and a father who doesn't care about their wellbeing. In fact who is going to look after your kids when you're in jail? Did you think that one through?


James August 4, 2014 at 8:22 am

How dare you moan about cuts and bruises from being arrested when you chose to strike an employee.

Nothing justifies police brutality — and eye for an eye leaves the while world blind.


anonmousebites August 4, 2014 at 10:20 am

Police brutality? No the cuts and bruises are probably from her resisting arrest, it's easy to injure yourself when you are throwing yourself about in an enclosed space. Handcuffs are not made for comfort strangely enough.

Police brutality is abhorrent and any evidence of it should be dealt with by the full extents of the law, but a nasty bully who thought she could have a temper tantrum and strike someone who was in their workplace, is not a victim in this story.

Have you ever been threatened for doing your job? Have you been struck for doing your job? It's absolutely pathetic behaviour and to whine about losing her job – and blaming it on the courts for daring to convict her – she doesn't deserve a job. The fact she is not allowed to work in her career with an assault charge leads me to believe she has a job in care for elderly or children – if she can't keep her temper around her peers, how would she be with people who are vulnerable?


S.M. August 27, 2014 at 9:47 am

She stated that she dropped to the floor, covered her eyes and began wailing as the police came up and later mentions a "tussel" with the police.. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that she was not at all compliant with them and therefore caused any injuries that she may have had. If you're fully compliant the worst that will happen is that your cuffs may be a bit uncomfortable…


Passerby August 13, 2014 at 9:43 am

Really hope your ex uses this to take the kids away from you and end the child support payments.


melanie August 30, 2014 at 5:15 pm

What career did you have? I mean, you seem to have so many mental, emotional, physical problems and you can't handle stress at all and then there's the whole panic attack issue. I can't imagine what kind of job you would do that wouldn't put you on a clock tower.

Yeah, you may have been stranded in El Paso for a night, big deal. You get booked for the next day and sleep on the floor.

The fact that you told the business as to why you were in Mexico tells me that you feel the need to let everyone know how downtrodden and sad you are. Yeah, I'm a bitch. I get that.


Michael September 4, 2014 at 10:29 am

While I agree that she brought this on herself, don't lose sight of the fact that the woman admits to being mentally ill and while everybody that has pointed out that she behaved badly is absolutely right, the way some of you have chosen to make this point is borderline abusive. You don't need to call her a thug. You don't need to say that you hope the husband takes the kids away from her (you know who you are, you meant it out of malevolence towards the woman and not out of concern for the well being of the child), and you don't need to tell her she doesn't deserve a job. She screwed up. She sounds like a person who needs help, but she does not sound like a bad person, so lay off.


Beth September 4, 2014 at 10:47 am

I would have had more empathy for her if her 'Oh, I know I did something wrong" thought wasn't sandwiched between 30 other sentences about "Oh woe is me because the airline and police were so mean to me!"


Michael September 4, 2014 at 1:04 pm

You have a point. She clearly has problems.


LaurenV October 5, 2014 at 6:49 am

I am disappointed at the number of obviously fake postings on this site.


roger November 13, 2014 at 10:07 pm

Another plethoria ofsad commentaries from judgemental and angry people that show no shred of compassion for their fellow man..
Do some of you sad souls really believe this woman would take the time to make up this”story”
Comment from a
Fellow flyer who took off with the door ajar. I will call bullshit on Bono,s door falling off in flight incident..He is obviously not getting enough attention,and no compassion for the dwarf locked in the back of the plane who was merely trying to kick the door down to get some air



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