American Airlines Passenger Gets Jail Time In Air Rage Incident


A Bronx, New York, woman is now headed behind bars for four months after assaulting a fellow passenger on an American Airlines flight and intimidating a flight attendant. Her co-defendant is set for sentencing on Nov. 7.

Kelly Pichardo, 32, pleaded guilty to interfering with a flight crew and will serve three years of supervised release after she gets out of prison. She is also liable for $9,123 in restitution to American Airlines after the flight from Dallas to Los Angeles was forced to divert to Phoenix so authorities could take her and co-defendant Leeza Rodriguez into custody.

According to testimony in the case, Pichardo and Rodriguez, seated in first class, began shouting racial slurs at a fellow passenger. When he took out his phone to record them, Pichardo physically tried to stop him and spat on him. When a flight attendant tried to intervene, she “knowingly intimidated” him.

Gary Restaino, U.S. attorney for the district of Arizona, said in a news release, “There is a line between boorish behavior on an airplane and criminal activity, and the defendant clearly crossed it. First-class passengers are not immune from prosecution: defendant’s verbal and physical intimidation disrupted the travel of passengers and crew alike.”

Unprecedented increases in reports of unruly behavior by passengers let the FAA to crack down, imposing record fines and instituting a now-permanent zero-tolerance policy.

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. This is a relief to see. My understanding has always been that, to a fair extent, Part 121 passengers come under federal laws and penalties if they misbehave. Yet over decades it seems like the deadly serious nature of those laws has been slowly eroded by a failure to enforce infractions. It more than bugs me when people jump up to fuss around the overhead lockers prior to the all-clear from the cockpit. Zero tolerance should never have been breached IMO. On the flip side, it has been good to see discretion exercised in cases of mental health situations where safety was not seriously compromised.

    I know the comments here can become a strangely fragrant cesspit when certain politicized issues arise. But I will say with a slight cringe that the apparent downward drift in enforcement of passenger behaviour enforcement appears to mirror other trends. As an outsider looking in, it is amazing that there is so much tolerance for accusations about democratic processes such as elections where no proof is found to exist.

  2. Air rage can be a manner of perception, incidents reported in press or social media can influence the action of passengers or crew. In the days of the splendid B747 we flew a schedule from SFO-HKG approx 15hours,then a new crew for the 4 hour sector home to Changi /SIN. About 2 hours into the flight, cruising in clear skies, both my F/O and I looking forward to days off at home were interrupted by my In Flight Supervisor with a request that I as Captain authorise the use of handcuffs for an economy passenger with a case of air rage. The plastic cuffs are kept on the flight deck, and their use only authorised under very clear conditions. So I asked him to describe the problem pax, this was an Indian lady who spoke no language any of my 19 cabin crew could understand, who was trying to open a main deck door. (No plug door on any Boeing can be opened in flight) The lady in question was 85 years old, and half blind. Then came the key reason, when he tried to restrain her, she bit him. Reasonably I asked if she drew blood, as he seemed unmarked. The answer, no, she has no teeth. I then asked if he would want his great grandmother to be lead off the airplane in handcuffs before her waiting family. The penny dropped, and he agreed with my advice, we had cabin attendants to spare, seat her down on an empty row between two girls, give her a cup of sweet tea, and we will be home in another 90 minutes. this worked, another air rage problem solved.

      • Exactly. That sort of judgment is what gets tossed out the window under “zero tolerance”.

        Anybody insisting on “zero tolerance” should immediately be considered for dismissal. Dismiss them from their job, government, and/or the discourse.

  3. Haven’t been on an airliner for seven years now. The last time, a couple of large fellows sitting about five rows away engaged in loud, profane conversation for much of the flight and treated the rest of the passengers to it as well. The flight attendants did nothing. I am quite capable of outrageous utterance and practice it with great skill and intend to continue doing so, but there is a time and a place for everything; inside an aluminum mailing tube with hundreds of others unable to get away from you is not that time or place. Now that I’m retired, I don’t HAVE to go anywhere; if I do, I’ll usually drive. No more airlines for me.

  4. For New Yorkers, being in Arizona would be punishment enough…
    I wonder if they have to stay in state to complete her three year’s probation?

  5. Two uncivilized first class passengers. Nothing was mentioned of the civil attitude of everyone else on this flight as well as the majority of commercial flights. Another example of a popular term; Karen’s self righteous attitudes without a clue. Perhaps a little comeuppance was revealed when jail time and a fine was assessed to bring out the light of day of carrying oneself in public requires muting street jargon within the confines of a flying sardine can packed with strangers.

  6. “pleaded guilty to interfering with a flight crew”
    Never understood how someone outside the cockpit handing out (if your lucky) a bag of peanuts is considered part of the flight crew. Can they word it that way on their resume’ like “five years, American Airlines flight crew” ? I think they stretched the term overy broad for what is basically a standard assault.

    • I would think managing the animals is conceptually on par with managing the machinery. If either one gets out of control things can get really bad for the passengers.

    • …until you need them to evacuate a burning airplane on a dark and stormy night. The flight attendants are there to save your a$$, not kiss it.

      • Couldn’t have said that any better. Flight attendants are Required crew members on airliners per FAR. Otherwise no airliner flight can happen. Although the planes I fly don’t require attendants, I still give them the respect they deserve when I am airlining. After all one of them may save my behind in an accident. As far as I am concerned all airline crew are flight crew because if one is not present the flight goes nowhere.

      • “until you need them to evacuate a burning airplane ”
        They don’t need degrees, thousands of hours over tens of years to work their way up the ranks do what they do. Just saying that there is a HUGE difference between jobs and qualifications and training between the real flight crew and the crew of an aircraft that does not deal with flight.

        • Arthur… I’m sorry… but… what? The crew in the back of the aircraft are EVERY bit as important as the people in the front of the aircraft in an emergency situation. Doesn’t matter how many years, how much training, how much they get paid. The flight crew might get the plane on the ground, but the cabin crew gets the passengers out of the plane. Check your arrogance.

    • The cabin passenger services that FAs perform is actually the least important and smallest part of their duties. They are (by regulation, even), required crew members. Just listen to the interviews Sully gave about how important the FAs are.

  7. Good! They deserve jail time. This is just one more example of a whole generation of spoiled, misled and coddled brats. They are the same ones who ignore both the letter of the law and common sense and have been allowed to get away with it at universities, public forums, and destructive street riots. The system is way too lenient and this kind of behavior is the result. The jails should be temporarily full of these obnoxious scoff law brats, in order to bring a little reality into their lives.

  8. Federal Aviation Regulation: § 121.391Flight attendants.
    (a) Except as specified in § 121.393 and § 121.394, each certificate holder must provide at least the following flight attendants on board each passenger-carrying airplane when passengers are on board:
    (1) For airplanes having a maximum payload capacity of more than 7,500 pounds and having a seating capacity of more than 9 but less than 51 passengers—one flight attendant.
    (2) For airplanes having a maximum payload capacity of 7,500 pounds or less and having a seating capacity of more than 19 but less than 51 passengers—one flight attendant.
    (3) For airplanes having a seating capacity of more than 50 but less than 101 passengers—two flight attendants.
    (4) For airplanes having a seating capacity of more than 100 passengers—two flight attendants plus one additional flight attendant for each unit (or part of a unit) of 50 passenger seats above a seating capacity of 100 passengers.
    (b) If, in conducting the emergency evacuation demonstration required under § 121.291 (a) or (b), the certificate holder used more flight attendants than is required under paragraph (a) of this section for the maximum seating capacity of the airplane used in the demonstration, he may not, thereafter, take off that airplane—
    (1) In its maximum seating capacity configuration with fewer flight attendants than the number used during the emergency evacuation demonstration; or
    (2) In any reduced seating capacity configuration with fewer flight attendants than the number required by paragraph (a) of this section for that seating capacity plus the number of flight attendants used during the emergency evacuation demonstration that were in excess of those required under paragraph (a) of this section.
    (c) The number of flight attendants approved under paragraphs (a) and (b) of this section are set forth in the certificate holder’s operations specifications.
    (d) During takeoff and landing, flight attendants required by this section shall be located as near as practicable to required floor level exists and shall be uniformly distributed throughout the airplane in order to provide the most effective egress of passengers in event of an emergency evacuation. During taxi, flight attendants required by this section must remain at their duty stations with safety belts and shoulder harnesses fastened except to perform duties related to the safety of the airplane and its occupants.

    • Yep, the requirement is to have enough warm bodies to do the unwatched perfunctory preflight safety dance and to fill the safest seats in the event of a (survivable) accident. Honestly, most could be done away with by an equally unwatched preflight video and some better evacuation lighting. They are the elevator attendants of the 21st century.

      • lets see that video crawl through a burning wreck and drag you to safety…

        as a retired airline pilot my attitude was always that the best safety device in any aircraft is a well trained flight attendant, its the only device that can think..

        • And yet, THOSE attendandts would rather go home to their families that drag your sorry arse to safety and die in the process. Sorry but given a choice, people will care more about themselves than mr. low fare in steerage class.