Southwest Airlines pilot cited in California mask assault

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — A Southwest Airlines pilot is under investigation for allegedly assaulting a flight attendant at a California bar during an argument over wearing masks, authorities said.

The pilot was cited for assault and battery over the Oct. 18 dispute at a hotel bar in San Jose, USA Today reported Tuesday.

The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office is reviewing the incident to determine whether criminal charges should be filed, San Jose police Sgt. Christian Camarillo told the news organization.

The pilot’s name wasn’t released.

The incident comes amid a surge in unruly airline passengers this year, who sometimes become violent.

Airlines reported about 3,000 cases of disruptive passengers between Jan. 1 and mid-June, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, which began tracking it this year. About 2,300 of those incidents involved passengers who refused to obey the federal requirement to wear a face mask.

The hotel bar incident “involved a disagreement over mask wearing or masks,” Camarillo said, declining to provide more details.

There was a “crew disagreement during an overnight trip,” and the pilot has been placed on leave while the incident is investigated, Southwest spokesperson Brandy King told USA Today.

“We do not have information to provide regarding the context of the event, and we do not discuss personnel issues externally,” King said.

USA Today reported that days after the incident, Southwest sent a memo to pilots and flight attendants warning that: “Crossing the line in a heated conversation can be a violation of our guidelines for employees and can even end in loss of job.”

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