Liar Liar, American Airlines Flight Attendant Set the Bathroom on Fire

On Monday February 1, American Airlines 1418 was headed from Dallas Fort Worth to Detroit when a flight attendant leapt into action to save the aircraft.

Only the FBI alleges he put the aircraft in danger in the first place.

Johnathan Tafoya-Montano admitted setting paper towels on fire with a lighter. The FBI says he immediately put out the fire, exited the bathroom and returned with a fire extinguisher to take care of any smoldering towels.

Here’s how it played out:

  • After setting the fire, “the flight attendant exited the bathroom, stood in the hallway for several minutes and pretended to discover a fire.”

  • “He then extinguished the remaining smoldering paper towels with a fire extinguisher after declaring an emergency to the other flight attendants.”

  • “The captain was notified. The control tower was alerted and the aircraft was granted emergency status to land at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.”

The whole deranged scheme, perhaps because he was frustrated by the slow pace of retirements of MD80 aircraft because he wished to look like a very minor hero, wasn’t well thought out since apparently no passengers had used the lavatory in the 15 to 20 minutes prior to the incident.

It could have been worse, he could have popped the slide… like Steven Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant who cursed a passenger, grabbed a beer from the galley, and deployed the emergency exit slide. That was perhaps the most dramatic exit from an aviation job in 2010.

On the Star Alliance MegaDO this was done intentionally (surprisingly, without the beer):

Tafoya-Montano appeared in US District Court in Detroit yesterday, and then took American Airlines flight AA43 back to Dallas. However,

The magistrate judge ordered the defendant to remain seated the entire flight, during which a corporate security officer would ride along next to the accused to make sure he stayed put.

Some combination of what it was like to fly in the days after the Underwear Bomber, and the “30 minute no-pee rule” flying in and out of Washington National airport in the first few years after 9/11.

Media reports suggest that he has recanted prior statements about an accident and has admitted setting the fire with a Bic lighter. Conditions of bail do not permit him to fly on a plane without permission of the Court.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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