American Airlines passenger is sued by the FAA after being duct taped to seat

Heather Wells bit, kicked and spat at staff as she reportedly attempted to open the front cabin door mid-flight

James Liddell
Monday 17 June 2024 03:41
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Heather Wells duct taped to her seat after she allegedly attacked crew members
Heather Wells duct taped to her seat after she allegedly attacked crew members (tiktok)

An American Airlines passenger who was gagged and bound with duct tape to her seat after being accused of attempting to open an aircraft door mid-flight has been sued by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Heather Wells, 34, was flying from Dallas to Charlotte, North Carolina, on July 6, 2021, when she began causing a ruckus on the aircraft – “biting” and spitting at staff and passengers, and allegedly attempting to open the front cabin door. A viral video showed her duct-taped to the seat in the aftermath of the incident.

The FAA first fined Wells a record $81,950 in civil penalties in 2022 as airlines and regulators battled against a surge of wayward passengers disrupting flights.

Now, US attorney Jaime Esparza has filed a lawsuit in San Antonio’s federal court on behalf of the FAA seeking to collect the money from Wells, according to a lawsuit first seen by San Antonio Express.

The business class passenger “wanted out” after drinking a neat Jack Daniels as she began running to the front of the plane and attempting to grab the handle of the front cabin door, according to the lawsuit filed on June 6.

Heather Wells duct taped to her seat after she allegedly attacked crew members
Heather Wells duct taped to her seat after she allegedly attacked crew members (tiktok)

Wells began “talking incoherently to passengers, before crawling back toward the main cabin,” and threatened a flight attendant that tried to intervene.

Swerving past the stewards, the passenger went for the front door as she “yelled profanities”, before two more attendants restrained her, the filing read.

Wells struck one flight attendant in the head several times during the tussle, according to the lawsuit. Wells was then sat down and restrained using flex-cuffs.

“Ultimately, the flight attendants and passenger were able to restrain Defendant with duct tape and flex cuffs and get her seated,” the lawsuit read.

Wells was bound to her chair with duct tape and gagged in a bid to stop her screams as she continued to “kick and spit and attempted to bite and head-butt a flight attendant and passengers,” as per the filing.

The American Airlines passenger has been sued for nealry $82,000
The American Airlines passenger has been sued for nealry $82,000 (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

American Airline’s pilots radioed staff at Charlotte to alert police, who were waiting on the runway. Wells continued to lash out even after the plane hit the tarmac.

“Ultimately, Defendant had to be sedated to be removed from the aircraft by law enforcement and medical responders,” the lawsuit read.

Wells has been summoned to answer the lawsuit, alleging that she violated federal aviation rules by trying to access the flight cabin, interfering with flight crew, threatening them and posing an imminent threat to the safety of the aircraft or individuals on the aircraft.

No criminal charges had seemingly been filed against Wells over the incident. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department confirmed to The Independent that it holds no record of charges being made, only an “inflight violation”.

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