Angry Airline Passenger Refusing to Wear Mask Gets Jail Time, Fine

James Maloney verbally berated and attempted to strike a flight attendant causing Las Vegas flight to divert to St. Louis

click to enlarge American Airlines plane in the sky.
An American Airlines plane that got safely to its destination because James Maloney wasn't on it.

A federal judge has ordered a New York man to spend 40 days in jail and pay $8,000 in restitution after the man caused an American Airlines to cut a flight to Las Vegas short and land in St. Louis.

James Maloney of Honeoye, New York, lunged at a flight attendant during a 2020 flight to Las Vegas, causing the flight to divert to St. Louis. He pled guilty to a federal charge of interference with crew members by assault in April and was sentenced to jail on Tuesday.

On Sept. 12, 2020, a flight attendant spotted Maloney with his mask off as he drank a beer he had not purchased on the plane, according to a release from the Eastern District of Missouri. When the flight attendant requested he put his mask on, Maloney hurled expletives and racial epithets at the plane's flight crew.

After a trip to the bathroom, Maloney became agitated when he did not see his girlfriend at their seats.

He then got in an argument with and subsequently lunged at a flight attendant. However,  Maloney's girlfriend grabbed him before he could strike the flight attendant, according to a release from Eastern District of Missouri.

The plane then diverted to St. Louis, where Maloney yelled and cursed at airport police after they arrested him.

In court Tuesday, U.S. District Judge John A. Ross called Maloney's behavior "outrageous." Passengers did not known whether Maloney would endanger the rest of the plane.

"The terror that people had to feel — it's inexcusable," Ross said.

Maloney has been banned from using alcohol. Ross also ordered Maloney to perform 100 hours of community service in addition to substance-abuse testing and treatment and mental-health counseling.

About The Author

Monica Obradovic

Monica Obradovic is a staff writer for the Riverfront Times.
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