A 33-year-old male passenger was charged with assault after a recent altercation on a flight from St. Thomas to Charlotte. The man, Brandon D. Bowlin, was traveling with his girlfriend. According to a signed affidavit, the couple was relocating to Charlotte from St. Thomas, after living there for about 6 months. The flight in question was probably operated by American Airlines, the only airline with scheduled commercial flights between the two cities.
The Charlotte Observer reports that Bowlin reportedly drank shots of vodka and Red Bull at the airport before the flight’s departure, and became verbally abusive on the flight. He told his girlfriend, identified as “J.J.,” to shut up, called her “a whore,” and threatened to “slap [her] up to teach [her] a lesson”. Fellow passengers tried to subdue the man, but he only grew more aggressive. He became physically abusive, hitting and squeezing J.J.’s extremities “with his fists and with the palms of his hands.”
The victim tried to leave her seat, but was blocked by Bowlin. Fortunately, a flight attendant intervened, and placed Bowlin next to a Federal Air Marshal who was on the flight. Bowlin was promptly arrested once the flight landed, but he denied the event ever happening, saying that his girlfriend probably just “busted her own lip”. The girlfriend says that Bowlin suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after serving in the Army, and has been known to act strangely while intoxicated.
Incidents of air rage are on the rise, according to recent studies. In 2015, the IATA reported one incident of unruly passengers in every 1,205 flights. 11% of the total 10,854 incidents involved physical aggression, and 23% of them inolved alcohol or drug intoxication.
This particular incident didn’t seem to be provoked by a particularly reason, and appears more the result of intoxication mixed with mental disabilities. Fortunately, in this case, flight attendants were able to intervene, and that there was an air marshal on the flight to help put an end to the violence.