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CVG airport police investigations find untrue or 'exaggerated' flight crew complaints about passengers

Police say some reported 'threats' didn't happen
CVG Airport police officers interview an American Airlines pilot in January 2021.
Posted at 5:26 PM, Feb 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-10 19:15:47-05

HEBRON, Ky. — CVG airport police officers responded to an American Airlines plane in January 2021 to investigate the flight crew's complaint about two passengers.

The plane had just landed at CVG.

"They had an hour and a half to put on a mask and they wouldn't," the pilot told one officer in a police body camera video obtained by the I-Team.

The police body camera video shows the pilot asked officers to remove the allegedly disruptive passengers from a plane.

"If I can influence the situation at all I would prefer that you guys go on and just tell them to stand up and walk off," the pilot said in the police video. "I mean, they made a scene so now it's our turn to make a scene if that makes sense."

Two flight attendants told officers the passengers weren't properly wearing masks required by federal law despite being repeatedly told to wear the masks.

But the two passengers, a husband and wife from Cincinnati, insisted they only brought down their masks when they were eating.

"I was like, I'm still chewing my food," the wife told officers on the police video. "It continues to fall down as I'm chewing."

Airport police say eight passengers told officers they didn't see the Cincinnati couple causing any problems.

According to the police report, "it is clear the flight crew exaggerated the circumstances."

The pilot later called it a "misunderstanding."

The Federal Aviation Administration said there were nearly 6,000 reports of unruly passengers on planes in 2021.

About 72% of those incidents concerned face masks, according to the FAA.

Overall, these incidents are still rare. According to the FAA, there were 6.9 unruly passengers for every 10,000 flights in 2021.

CVG airport police records show officers responded to 53 'unruly passenger' incidents in 2021.

In at least nine of those cases, police records show officers determined that the initial complaint referred by a flight crew wasn't accurate.

In three cases, flight crews referred reports to police that threats had been made against flight attendants, but officers concluded there were no threats, according to CVG police records.

In one of those incidents, a passenger misunderstood another passenger's comment about a flight attendant.

In several additional reports, officers noted that other passengers disagreed with the flight crew's response to passengers. Some of those passenger 'witnesses' expressed interest in filing complaints with those airlines.

The frustration of officers responding to the American Airlines incident in January 2021 was apparent.

"This is pretty f****** ridiculous," one officer told another officer in a body camera video.

Airport police officers interviewed eight passenger 'witnesses' on the plane, officers said in the body camera video.

"Everybody on that plane said that they were not being unruly in any shape or form," an officer told the flight crew in the body camera video.

In the end, the Cincinnati couple got off the plane, went home and requested a copy of this body camera video.

One officer called the flight crew together for a closing comment about how they handled the incident.

"We're here for assistance and any safety issue and flight issue," he told them. "But we are not here because you guys want to make a scene out of people."

In a written statement emailed to the I-Team Thursday, American Airlines said, "We expect our customers to comply with the federal mask mandate, and we take action when that's not the case."

American Airlines declined to respond to the CVG airport police report findings.

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