CHICAGO, Illinois – A flight attendant was arrested after passengers aboard a flight from Chicago to South Bend, Indiana, expressed concern about her condition during the flight, court documents show.
Julianne March, of Waukesha, Wisconsin, was arrested August 2 after United Flight 4849 landed and charged with public intoxication, according to a St. Joseph County Superior Court summons filed Thursday.
The charging document filed by Eric Tamashasky, the chief deputy prosecuting attorney, said March’s intoxication on the flight “endangered the life of another person, to wit: the passengers on the flight.”
March was also fired by Air Wisconsin, which operates as a regional airline for United and United Express.
“The Flight Attendant involved in this incident is no longer employed by Air Wisconsin,” the company said in a written statement. “We will continue to cooperate with local authorities and assist them as necessary.”
CNN has reached out to March for comment but has not heard back. March is due back in court on Aug. 29, according to McBrier.
Passenger Aaron Scherb told CNN he was aboard the flight and saw March “kind of leaning against the galley.” He said she didn’t make eye contact with passengers.
Scherb said March’s behavior seemed strange to him. He said she started to make the security announcement but stopped seconds later without finishing.
“The pilots called the flight attendant via the internal phone before taking off to get the ‘all clear’/cabin secure message from her, but it took several audible rings before she picked up the phone,” Scherb said.
He said from the moment they taxied out to the runway, March sat down and “appeared to pass out/fall asleep for nearly the whole flight.” He said once they were in the air, a female passenger noticed March wasn’t buckled in with a seatbelt, so she helped strap her in.
Scherb said March didn’t get up at all during the duration of the 25-minute flight.
Once they landed at South Bend International Airport, some passengers told airport officers and airline personnel they felt scared for their lives because of March’s apparent condition, court records show.
The passengers speculated that she was either drunk, having a medical issue, or had experienced a stroke, according to court documents.
March was arrested and taken to St. Joseph County Jail, according to airport logs.
Court documents say while being transported to the jail, March told an officer that she had about two vodka “shooters” prior to coming to work that morning. Those documents show a portable breath test at the jail resulted in a blood alcohol concentration reading of .204.
The FAA BAC limit for all aviation safety-sensitive positions, a category that includes flight attendants, is .04
March was charged with one count of public intoxication, a Class B Misdemeanor that has a sentencing range of up to 180 days, according to Jessica McBrier, a spokeswoman for the St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office.
Scherb said a United representative called him late that same afternoon and offered him a $500 voucher or 25,000 miles, which he has yet to accept, in addition to a refund for that segment of his trip. United declined to comment.
“Please reach out to Air Wisconsin for their statement about their flight attendant. You may already know this was not a United flight attendant or crew,” United said in a statement to CNN.
Given the significant safety and security roles that flight attendants have, Scherb said airlines should consider adopting zero tolerance policies for flight attendants.
“While breathalyzers hopefully aren’t needed on airplanes, given the recent incidents with alcohol involving pilots and flight attendants, it might be something that airlines have to consider,” he said.
Regarding zero tolerance, Air Wisconsin said: “We hold all of our employees to the highest standards and have a strict, no tolerance policy for alcohol.”