Violent airline passenger sends gate agent to hospital

A passenger aboard a Southwest Airlines flight to NYC from Dallas was arrested Saturday after punching a gate agent so hard it sent her to hospital. Neither were named by NBC News, but the passenger was reportedly charged with aggravated assault.

The victim, who Southwest Airlines identified only as an operations agent, was taken to a local hospital and is in stable condition, police said.

"We have a Station Manager with her at the hospital with the full support of her Southwest Family sending our thoughts, prayers, and love," an airline spokesman said in an emailed statement. "Southwest Airlines maintains a zero-tolerance policy regarding any type of harassment or assault and fully support our Employee as we cooperate with local authorities regarding this unacceptable incident."

The Flight Attendants' Union has seen enough.

"The unprecedented number of incidents has reached an intolerable level, with passenger non-compliance events also becoming more aggressive in nature," Lyn Montgomery, the president of the Transport Workers Union of America Local 556, wrote in a May letter to Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, there have been at least 5,114 reports of unruly passengers since the beginning of the year across all airlines and more than 970 investigation initiated by the FAA in 2021 compared to 183 investigations in 2020.

Correction: the hospitalized employee was a gate agent, not a flight attendant