Passengers are suing a US airline for “emotional distress” after an off-duty pilot attempted hijacking


Three passengers have filed a lawsuit to hold Alaska Airlines liable for “dishonesty” that caused “emotional distress” when an off-duty pilot… Attempted hijacking and crash Plane last week.

In the complaint filed in Superior Court in King County, Washington, on Thursday, plaintiffs claim Alaska should not have allowed Joseph David Emerson, 44, into the cockpit because he had been suffering from mental illness for weeks.

On a Horizon Airlines flight to San Francisco from Paine Field Airport in Everett, Washington, on October 22, Emerson was in the jump seat when he admitted to the pilots that he “wasn’t feeling well” and tried to grab the red fire handles.

Emerson “wrestle with” The pilots before being zip-tied and taken to the back of the plane.

He also admitted to the police that he “tried to kill everyone.”

“The passengers did not know what was wrong,” the complaint states. “Thoughts of a complete plane malfunction or terrorist activity naturally crossed their minds.”

The complaint also called the airline’s statement “disappointingly self-serving.”

Alaska said it received the complaint and is reviewing it.

“Airlines need a wake-up call. We realize that most pilots are everyday heroes for operating our planes safely. But they are not immune to insomnia, drinking, drug use or a mental health crisis,” said Daniel Lawrence, an aviation lawyer with the FBI. . Stritmatter, the company handling the case, said in a statement.

more: The FAA encourages pilots to seek mental health treatment

“Airlines are responsible for the lives of passengers and, under the law, have the highest duties of care. Airlines can and should take simple, reasonable steps before every flight to challenge the assumption that every pilot who shows up at the gate is relaxed, sober and in the right state of mind to fly.” “Emerson’s statements while in the air and shortly after his arrest show that if the airlines here had done that, he would not have been allowed to board the plane. As a result, our customers suffered needlessly. Only luck kept it from becoming a mass disaster.”

Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air plane

The complaint also notes the lack of a system for pilots and their mental health screenings, which ultimately keeps them away from the support they need to be able to continue flying.

The plaintiffs are seeking damages that include ticket fees, “fees for evaluation and/or treatment of health conditions and associated travel, and damages for psychological injury, including but not limited to emotional distress, physical pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of life.” . Travel, economic opportunities, and inconvenience caused by the defendants to the plaintiffs.

Kathleen Wong is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in Hawaii. You can reach her at

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Passengers sue Alaska Airlines for ’emotional distress’

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