A man charged with groping a flight attendant has been sentenced to six months in prison.
Enio Socorro Zayas was sentenced on Monday in US District Court in the Southern District of Florida, according to court documents.
Zayas was indicted after an incident on August 6, 2021, aboard American Airlines flight 1723, traveling from Cancun to Miami International Airport.
According to an affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, the flight attendant, believing Zayas was asleep, placed a snack package on his lap.
When she turned away, the flight attendant “felt a hand grip the bottom of her thigh and move upwards towards the lower portion of her buttocks before rubbing firmly from side to side,” the affidavit reads.
One of the passengers on board corroborated details of the incident to law enforcement, according to the affidavit.
Zayas pleaded guilty to assault in October.
Disruptive – sometimes criminal – passenger behavior has been a serious problem during the pandemic. Last year was the worst on record for poor passenger behavior aboard US airliners.
Nearly 6,000 reports of unruly behavior were reported in 2021, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
In January 2021, the FAA announced a “zero-tolerance” policy for unruly passenger behavior that skips warnings or counseling and goes directly to penalties, which can include heavy fines and jail time.
From 1995 to 2020, an average of 182 investigations were initiated per year. In 2021, the FAA initiated 1,081 investigations – a 494% increase over the historic average of investigations.
As of November 4, the FAA had referred 37 out of 227 cases for which it had initiated enforcement action to the FBI for criminal prosecution review. (The FAA does not have authority to prosecute criminal cases).
Those cases are part of growing attention from the Justice Department on unruly passenger behavior.
Additional cases are being referred to the FBI regularly, the FAA told CNN earlier this month.
Top photo: American Airlines planes are parked at their gates at Miami International Airport in this December 10, 2021, file photo. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)