Woman accused of assaulting gate agent at Phoenix airport after not wearing mask

A woman who did not wear a mask while on a flight allegedly struck an airline gate agent in the face after being denied permission to board a second flight, officials said.

Phoenix police at Sky Harbor International Airport responded to a report of an assault at a terminal at approximately 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.

A woman, identified by police as Yolanda Yarbrough, 47, did not comply with American Airlines’ mandatory face covering policy while on a flight from Los Angeles to Phoenix, said Curtis Blessing, a spokesman for the airline.

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American Airlines requires all passengers and crew members to wear masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Police said in a statement that Yarbrough was told of the policy, which went into effect on May 11, during the flight and was reminded of the mask requirement when the plane landed. It is similar to the policies of other major airlines.

After she arrived in Phoenix and was informed that she would not be able to take a connecting flight to Las Vegas, Yarbrough “became irate and struck an American team member in the terminal,” Blessing said.

The employee told police that Yarbrough had struck him with her hand on his face, police said. Blessing said the employee was not injured.

Yarbrough was arrested and booked on an assault charge. She was released on her own recognizance Wednesday, a spokesman for the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office said Friday. Yarbrough could not immediately be reached for comment. It is not clear whether she has an attorney.

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American Airlines stepped up its enforcement of the mask rule in June, requiring that face coverings be worn at airports and on board, and announced that it may deny future travel for customers who refused to comply.

Blessing said American Airlines does not tolerate violence of any kind.

Yarbrough has been banned from future America Airlines flights pending further investigation, Blessing said.

Image: Janelle GriffithJanelle Griffith

Janelle Griffith is a breaking news reporter for NBC News. 

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