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.
"We received reports last month about the off-duty disagreement between crew members on an overnight trip," a Southwest Airlines spokesman said. "Our internal investigation, now ongoing, would regard the outcome of charges filed with local authorities. One employee currently is on leave as this internal process unfolds."
The hotel bar incident “involved a disagreement over mask wearing or masks,” Camarillo said, declining to provide more details.
USA Today reported that days after the incident, Dallas-based 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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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.