Southwest Airlines Grapples With Lewd Former Pilot, Passengers Attacking Flight Attendants

A former pilot for Southwest Airlines was sentenced to one year of probation and fined $5,000 for a federal charge of committing "lewd, indecent, or obscene" acts during a flight.

Michael Haak, 60, pleaded guilty on Friday to the charge and admitted to watching porn and exposing himself to the female first officer mid-flight.

On August 10, 2020, after the plane reached cruising altitude, Haak, of Longwood, Florida, "got out of the pilot's seat, and while still in the cockpit of the plane, intentionally disrobed and viewed pornographic media on a laptop computer," according to federal prosecutors in Maryland.

The statement from the Department of Justice added that "Haak further engaged in inappropriate conduct in the cockpit" while the first officer continued her in-flight duties. He and the first officer had never met prior to the flight.

The flight was traveling from Philadelphia International Airport to Orlando International Airport.

Southwest Airlines spokesman Chris Mainz told Newsweek, "Southwest only learned of the alleged behavior after Mr. Haak voluntarily separated from Southwest Airlines. Nonetheless, Southwest did investigate the matter and as a result, ceased paying Mr.Haak any benefits he was entitled to receive as a result of his separation from The Company."

The incident is not the only challenge that Southwest Airlines has faced recently. On May 23, a Southwest flight attendant was struck in the face by a passenger, identified as Vyvianna Quinonez, on a flight from Sacramento to San Diego.

Mainz told CNN that the passenger was "repeatedly" ignoring standard in-flight procedures, such as tray tables and seatbelts, "and became verbally and physically abusive upon landing."

Video obtained by CBS News shows the moment a Southwest Airlines flight attendant was punched by a passenger after asking her to keep her seat belt fastened during a flight from Sacramento to San Diego Sunday. https://t.co/gQusevodYC pic.twitter.com/oOYvPdwCFj

— CBS News (@CBSNews) May 27, 2021

The passenger was arrested on felony battery resulting in serious injury, after allegedly knocking out two of the flight attendant's teeth.

The incident sparked Southwest Airlines' recent decision to further halt the distribution of alcoholic beverages on flights. Southwest's head of in-flight operations, Sonya Lacore, wrote in a memo that "based on the rise in passenger disruptions in flight, I've made the decision to re-evaluate the restart of alcohol service on board."

Mainz told Newsweek,"We realize this decision may be disappointing for some customers, but we feel this is the right decision at this time in the interest of the Safety and comfort of all Customers and Crew onboard."

The airline had intended to resume its alcohol service in June and reported waiting until at least July, due to the uptick in aggressions it has seen on flights.

Southwest workers' union president, Lyn Montgomery, addressed CEO Gary Kelly in a letter, saying: "From April 8 to May 15, there were 477 passenger misconduct incidents on Southwest Airlines aircraft. This unprecedented number of incidents has reached an intolerable level, with passenger non-compliance events also becoming more aggressive in nature."

Mainz reported that Quinonez has been permanently restricted from "ever flying on Southwest Airlines again, and she has been advised this decision is final."

"Unfortunately, this is just one of many occurrences," Montgomery told ABC News.

The Federal Aviation Administration reported in a news release that it has received nearly 2,500 reports of unruly behavior by passengers since the beginning of the year.

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A former Southwest Airlines pilot recently pleaded guilty to watching pornographic media and exposing himself to the female first officer mid-flight. Above, one of the company's planes at Midway International Airport in Chicago on April 6. Photo by KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI / AFP