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Charlotte flight attendant hopes for change at federal level to curb unruly passenger reports

Teddy Andrews shared his experiences with an aviation subcommittee of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on Thursday, Sept. 23.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The push continues across America to decrease the amount of disruptive and unruly airline passengers. 

Members of Congress were able to get a chance to hear from people working on the frontlines during an aviation subcommittee meeting for the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Thursday. Sept. 23. 

Teddy Andrews, a flight attendant with American Airlines based in Charlotte, was one of the guests that testified virtually and shared experiences dealing with unruly passengers. 

Andrews provided details about an experience he had with an unruly passenger that did not wear a mask when they needed to during a domestic flight. 

"I left the galley to speak with the passenger, who still had his mask off but was not eating or drinking. As I approached him, I asked politely, 'Sir, would you please put your mask back on? It needs to be covering both your mouth and nose.'" Andrews said during the testimony. 

"He looked at me, and here I will not repeat the vile epithet he used. He said, 'N*****, I don’t have to listen to a damn thing you say, this is a free country,'" Andrews continued. "I was completely taken aback. I didn’t know what to say. Then he continued, “You heard me, N***** boy.'" 

Andrews went on to add the passenger eventually calmed down and put his mask back on. 

COVID-19 is a personal issue for Andrews, who explained he contracted the virus in March of 2020, and was hospitalized after returning from an assignment in Chile. 

Andrews said he had an oxygen level of 88% at one point and had to spend time in ICU. 

"My recovery took months," he said. 

With his experiences, the flight attendant is hoping to see steps be taken by the federal government. That includes a federal "no-fly" list for disruptive passengers, federal criminal prosecution along with a host of other initiatives.

You can watch the full testimony below. 

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also announced on Thursday the rate of unruly passenger incidents on commercial flights has dropped slightly since the agency launched its Zero Tolerance campaign, but still remains too high. 

“Our work is having an impact and the trend is moving in the right direction. But we need the progress to continue. This remains a serious safety threat, and one incident is one too many,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson in a news release. “The FAA will continue its Zero Tolerance policy, keep its public awareness campaign going, and keep pushing and partnering with everyone in the aviation system to do more. We appreciate the tremendous work of all our partners in the airline, airport, labor, and law enforcement communities.” 

Credit: Federal Aviation Administration

RELATED: Stop selling alcohol to go at airports, congressman says about unruly passenger cases

The data provided by the FAA shows more than 4,000 cases of unruly passengers have been reported. 

A sizeable portion of unruly passenger reports were mask-related incidents. 

Out of those year-to-date totals from the FAA, 788 investigations have been initiated. Enforcement on 162 of the cases is also ongoing, according the agency. 

RELATED: Passenger flying to Charlotte fined $17,000 for vaping, drinking, mask-refusing

After the congressional hearing, Andrews spoke with WCNC Charlotte and said a little bit of kindness can go a long way. 

"Respect... its common courtesy that our grandparents taught us. Be kind, be nice and appreciate people,"  Andrews said.

Flashpoint is a weekly in-depth look at politics in Charlotte, North Carolina, South Carolina, and beyond with host Ben Thompson. Listen to the podcast weekly. 
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