Florida woman’s Aspen trip topped off with $23,000 FAA fine

March incident on regional flight was because her first-class seat would not recline

A Florida woman accused of verbally abusing and physically striking an attendant on an American Airlines flight from Dallas to Aspen in March faces a $23,000 fine from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The FAA, which said the woman was upset because her seat would not recline, announced this week it was proposing $225,287 in civil fines against 10 passengers as part of its no-tolerance policy declared in January to address unruly and violent passengers. So far the FAA has proposed $1.45 million in fines against out-of-line air travelers. The FAA cannot prosecute criminal cases but it can impose civil fines.

The FAA’s announcement Wednesday included summaries of each of the 10 cases resulting in fines, including the Dallas-to-Aspen flight on March 11. The summary read: “The FAA alleges that the passenger verbally abused flight attendants after she realized her assigned seat would not recline. Multiple passengers offered to switch seats with her, but she repeatedly declined and kept yelling at flight attendants.

“She agreed to switch seats with another passenger but continued to verbally abuse flight attendants. She then struck a flight attendant on the right forearm, and attempted to do so again. Further, she repeatedly refused to comply with the facemask policy. Law enforcement met her at the arrival gate.”

Contacted Friday, the woman accused said she would not contest the fine but said it was not the amount of $23,000 stated by the FAA.

“I can’t compete with a lying stewardess,” said Kari Dimas, 60, of Palm Beach, Florida. “There was not an arrest because there was nothing criminal that happened.”

The FAA did not identify the people facing the fines, but a report from the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office offered more details into the incident. Deputy Anthony Todaro was at the airport on March 11 when the call came in to authorities about an in-flight disturbance involving a passenger who had struck a flight attendant in the arm and wasn’t complying with federal mask requirements, according to the report.

“The airplane was in the air, and that’s not our jurisdiction,” Todaro said Friday. “It was somewhere between Dallas and Aspen and what we did is respond. When we got there I contacted the passenger and took a very brief report.”

The report was sent to the FBI in Glenwood Springs, and Todaro said Homeland Security in subsequent months contacted him about the incident.

The deputy’s report identified the passenger as Dimas, who was the first woman to deplane the aircraft when it landed in Aspen. After the woman deplaned, Todaro and an American Airlines official escorted her to an office where the deputy interviewed her, the police report said.

Dimas told Todaro that she was upset because she had hip pain and had paid for a first-class seat expecting more comfort, only to learn its reclining function wasn’t working. While on the flight, Dimas told the flight attendant about the seat and at one point, “She got in my face so I pushed her back,” Todaro quoted Dimas as saying, according to the report. “Dimas then told me she pushed the flight attendant with her finger.”

In a separate interview with another deputy, the flight attendant said Dimas demanded a refund for the extra amount of money she paid to sit first-class, kept removing her face mask, and once “smacked” the attendant’s arm as she walked by.

Said Dimas: “They gave me a seat that did not recline. And when I wanted her name, she got upset.”

Dimas declined to answer any further questions.

The flight attendant, who lives in Louisiana, did not need medical attention, Todaro said Friday.

“It was a first-class regional seat, so it’s not much of an upgrade anyway,” Todaro said. “And she was crabby to begin with and wasn’t wearing a mask.”