First-class passenger sentenced to prison after she interfered with crew members aboard flight that had to be diverted


A New York woman has been sentenced to four months in prison for interfering with crew members aboard a flight from Dallas to Los Angeles last year that had to be diverted to Phoenix, according to federal prosecutors.

They said Kelly Pichardo and another first-class passenger engaged in intimidating behavior on the flight and both women had to be removed from the plane after it landed at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on Feb. 24, 2021.

Authorities said the women each assaulted a passenger during the flight and used racial slurs when a male passenger asked them to stop.

Pichardo also allegedly spit at the man when he tried to record the altercation.

The case was investigated by the FBI and Phoenix police and the two women were indicted for disorderly conduct for verbally and physically assaulting other customers and flight crew members.

Prosecutors said Pichardo, a 32-year-old resident of the Bronx, has been ordered to pay nearly $9,200 restitution to American Airlines as a result of the altercation.

They say Pichardo also will serve three years of supervised release following her prison sentence.

“There is a line between boorish behavior on an airplane and criminal activity, and the defendant clearly crossed it,” U.S. Attorney Gary Restaino said.  “First class passengers are not immune from prosecution: defendant’s verbal and physical intimidation disrupted the travel of passengers and crew alike.”

The other female passenger involved in the incident, Leeza S. Rodriguez, has pleaded guilty and will be sentenced in November.

After the incident, American Airlines said the two women were “placed on the internal refuse list pending further investigation.”

Each airline keeps its own internal ban list, which is separate from the federal No-Fly list. Delta Airlines, which said it has banned more than 1,600 passengers since the federal government started requiring passengers to wear masks, has called on airlines to share their lists.



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