(NEW YORK) — Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian said the safety of customers and crew is “of paramount concern” following an incident with an unruly passenger involving a flight attendant from his airline.
Last week, a Delta flight was diverted to Oklahoma after an unruly passenger allegedly made terroristic threats and assaulted two flight attendants, according to police. The suspect, Stephon Jamar Duncan, works for Delta as a flight attendant but was off-duty at the time of the incident, according to the airline.
“I’ve got to tell you that our crew onboard that flight handled the situation professionally. They managed it well, resolved it quickly, safely. At no point was that aircraft ever in danger,” Bastian said in an interview on Good Morning America.
Calling it an “unfortunate” and “sad situation,” Bastian added, “But our team’s doing a very, very good job of managing the stressful environment as we’re seeing a massive surge in people returning to air travel and to public life.”
As more travelers take to the skies, there has been an uptick in confrontations on flights. Airlines have reported 3,000 cases of disruptive passengers to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) this year, and the vast majority — 2,300 — involve people who refused to wear a mask.
“Our crews are professionally trained to resolve situations like this. We have been dealing with it all the last year for masks,” Bastian told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos. “We’re having some incidents on that, but I would say, George, the bigger issue is that customers are returning in such large numbers.”
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported 2,097,433 people were screened at airports across the country on Sunday, marking a record high since the start of the pandemic.
“We know the pandemic caused a lot of emotional well-being challenges for a lot of people, and as everyone is coming back to life, we’re seeing this in all walks of life,” Bastian said.
With the increased number of passengers, travelers are also reporting longer wait times should they need to change their trips. Bastian said he expects the phone lines at Delta to be back to normal levels of handling times in four weeks.
“Everyone in the industry is experiencing the same challenge. The phone volumes are up 40% above 2019 levels, and so we’re not staffed, and we haven’t been staffed for the massive amount of increase in call questions that people are having on the rise,” Bastian said. “Our team is doing a great job. We’re bringing a lot of resources in.”
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