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Southwest Airlines pilot cited for allegedly assaulting flight attendant at hotel bar during argument over masks

Airline workers testify on spike in unruly passengers
Airline workers testify on spike in unruly pa... 02:07

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 airline told CBS News the employee in question is currently on leave.

"Last month, we received a report regarding a crew disagreement that occurred while off-duty during an overnight trip," the airline told CBS News in a statement. "We are conducting an internal investigation that will include any outcome from charges that were filed with local authorities. "

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 USA Today.

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 told USA Today, declining to provide more details.

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."

The flight attendants union, TWU Local 556, told CBS News they are aware of the incident.:

"As with all flight attendants we represent, we will support our member in accordance with the law and our collective bargaining agreement," the union said.

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