Just mere days after a huge brawl at Miami International Airport, another massive fight broke out in the terminal Tuesday night.
The mayhem was captured in cellphone footage taken by multiple onlookers at Gate G-15 by the Southwest Airlines counter. One person ended up arrested.
The fight is part of a troubling trend airports across the nation are seeing, now that many people have resumed traveling. Recently, videos have surfaced showing face-mask confrontations, seat disagreements and personal space arguments. Clashes between passengers on planes have spilled over into airports.
“Airports nationwide are facing an unprecedented increase in unruly passenger behavior this year,” Lester Sola, the director and CEO of Miami International Airport, said in a statement.
Citing a Federal Aviation Administration report this week, Sola said incidents of unruly passenger behavior are up from 100 to 150 formal cases in an average year to 1,300 so far in 2021, nationwide.
At MIA, which falls under the Miami-Dade Police Department Airport District, there have been 81 unruly passenger incidents and five arrests since January, said Major Jesus Ramirez, who runs the unit. The arrests include charges of disorderly intoxication, resisting arrest and assault and battery. From January 2020 through the end of the year, there were 69 incidents and two arrests.
“We are not isolated,” Sola said. “The national trend has affected us.”
Indeed, incidents are up, despite traffic being down. According to MIA spokesman Greg Chin, MIA’s total passenger numbers from Jan. 1 through April 30 were significantly down compared to the previous two years. In 2019, 15,917,744 people passed through the airport during this period, compared with 10,534,018 in 2020 and 8,884,231 in 2021.
According to an airport police report, officers responded to a disturbance call Tuesday regarding a fight among passengers who were forced to deplane from Flight 3522 to Chicago-Midway due to a woman who “refused to comply” with in-flight regulations. The flight was delayed by two hours as a result of the incident.
WARNING: VIDEO CONTAINS EXPLICIT LANGUAGE
A woman with long blond braids who is seen at the center of the melee was taken into custody for alleged disorderly conduct and breaching the peace.
In a video taken by a passenger while the plane was still on the tarmac, the 25-year-old suspect, Alexus Beaty, of Chicago, can be heard loudly complaining.
In the explicit, curse-laden clip, you can hear Beaty yelling that she is not in the seat that she paid for.
The next part of the clip shows that the entire flight was kicked off for her behavior. Beaty is seen still yelling and getting into other passengers’ personal space. Soon, a man who appears to be her travel companion gets into a physical altercation with another male passenger, and then all hell breaks loose.
According to the police report, cops responded to the gate and upon arrival, contact was made with a Southwest employee who stated that “the defendant was fighting and yelling on board the aircraft with other passengers,” causing them all to deplane.
The officer attempted to escort the woman out of the area “in order to calm the crowd down and she refused and resisted by ducking down and pulling away toward other passengers,” said the report.
The woman was then arrested and escorted out of the area, according to the police report, which noted “a new flight crew was assigned and reboarded without further incident.”
“MIA does not promote or tolerate this type of behavior,” Sola said. “MDPD responded immediately, quelled the situation, and made an arrest.”
Beaty was transported to Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center and released after posting a $500 bond, records show.
Southwest declined to comment on the incident.
On April 25, one person was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct after a large fight broke out by Gate D-14.
Fines by FAA
On Wednesday, the FAA announced plans to fine four individuals between $9,000 and $32,750 for incidents that occurred from Dec. 22 to Feb. 7.
In two of the cases, the passenger allegedly assaulted flight attendants.
In January, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson announced a zero tolerance policy after seeing a “disturbing increase in incidents where airline passengers have disrupted flights with threatening or violent behavior.”
“This dangerous behavior can distract, disrupt and threaten crew members’ safety function,” Dickson said in a video posted to YouTube by the FAA. “As a former airline captain, it’s extremely concerning to me.”
At MIA, Ramirez said the unit “consistently monitors the trends and the intelligence information we receive both from the airlines and/or from our law enforcement partners and we adjust our personnel accordingly to ensure the highest level of safety.”
“Seeing this national trend going on, we’ve adjusted the deployment of our personnel to ensure that we include our gate areas,” he said.
The unit also works closely with the Transportation Security Administration and other agencies to enforce face mask and other COVID-19 rules. Last week, TSA extended its mask requirement for transportation systems through Sept. 13.
Ramirez said one of the biggest issues is making people understand that the “see something/say something mentality doesn’t only apply to a catastrophic case or event.”
“In today’s environment, because we are seeing the increase in unruly passengers, we are asking people instead of taking out your cellphone and recording, the first thing you should do is call 911,” he said.
Ramirez also had a request for passengers: “We ask everybody to be courteous and to be patient and to be kind to each other.”