Durham, NC, Mom Arrested on Frontier Airlines After Complaining of Biohazard on Passenger Seats

Illustration for article titled Durham, NC, Mom Arrested on Frontier Airlines After Complaining of Biohazard on Passenger Seats
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Durham, North Carolina, resident Rosetta Swinney was on her way back from an Easter trip to Nevada with her young teen daughter when things went wrong. In simply trying to travel in peace and health, 53-year-old Swinney now must be defended in a courtroom.


First, there was a flight delay in Las Vegas at McCarran International Airport. Frontier Airlines staff was “cleaning the plane” while passengers sat waiting. So when Swinney and her daughter were finally able to board, they were shocked to find their seats still dirty in one of the worst ways possible.

“She jumped up to say, ‘Mom! My hands are wet,’” Swinney said about her daughter’s reaction, according to WTVD-TV. “She smelled it. She says, ‘This is vomit, Mom.’ So we went to look. It was on the bag, all over her shirt, her hands.”

Swinney let a flight attendant know about the gross situation, but she didn’t get the response she’d expected.

“She turned around to me and said, ‘That’s not my job.’”

When Swinney continued to protest about the literal biohazard on the plane and all over her daughter, and their belongings, she was ultimately arrested.

Although the airline accepted the flight attendant’s account—of a “disruptive” passenger who needed to be removed—judging by the statement it later released, multiple eyewitnesses corroborates Swinney’s story, including a person posting as Lynette Lipke on Facebook.


Lipke wrote on April 20: “[T]he stewardess gave the young girl Clorox wipes and gloves, the mom said you need to move us and have someone clean this up..the stewardess said...its not my job! The mom then said well we are not going to clean this up, you were suppose to be cleaning the plane before we got on.”

Swinney and other passengers maintain the flight was delayed for “cleaning,” yet vomit was on the plane when passengers boarded. The attendant never attempted to clean up the mess; instead she handed the passengers gloves and wipes to do it themselves.


Swinney sat in a jail cell for the rest of the day while her crying daughter was placed in temporary protective custody. “I felt humiliated,” Swinney said.

After being released, Swinney said, she spent $1,000 for a ticket via Delta ... which doesn’t exactly have the best track record either, but we’re glad she got home without further incident.


Swinney has made it clear that she has no plans to ever fly Frontier Airlines again.

Here is Frontier’s statement:

During boarding of flight 2066 from McCarran International Airport (LAS) to Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) last week, two passengers told the flight attendants that vomit was present in their seat area. The flight attendants apologized and immediately invited the mother and her teenage daughter to move to either end of the plane so that the seat area could be cleaned. The mother and daughter were also told that once boarding was complete they would be provided other seats if available. The daughter was also offered cleaning products and invited to use the lavatory to wash up. The mother was unsatisfied with the response and became disruptive. As a result, the flight attendants determined that the mother and daughter should be deplaned and accommodated on another flight. The mother refused, and following procedure, law enforcement was called. Law enforcement then requested that everyone deplane so that the mother and daughter could be removed allowing the aircraft to be re-boarded and depart. We apologized to our passengers for the inconvenience caused by the departure delay. The safety of passengers and crew is our top priority at Frontier.


Does Frontier think that passenger and crew “safety” means protection from a rightfully “Angry Black Woman,” or safety from the clearly legal and scientific biohazard of vomit and bodily fluid on passengers’ seats that their crew failed to remove... even after delaying the flight so the plane could be cleaned? Just because they were landed in Las Vegas doesn’t mean there was a party on board, but really, what was the crew doing instead of cleaning up vomit? The world may never know…

What we do know is that Frontier is out here casually spreading norovirus and dysentery like this is some Oregon Trail reboot. The flight attendants had Rosetta arrested for disruption but in videos circulating online it shows Ms. Swinney as cool, calm, and collected; quite polite actually. In fact, the police officer seen in the video below tells Rosetta he believes her, and “sympathizes,” but none of that matters because the flight attendants want her off the plane. Passengers in the videos can be heard supporting Rosetta Swinney’s innocence. Still her choice was to voluntarily leave or be arrested.


In a calm tone, Rosetta asked for hotel accommodation or other means of assistance if she leaves; she has work in the morning, there’s an unknown person’s vomit on the plane, and her daughter, and this is all quite disruptive to her life right now...she just wants to go home. She refused to get up until a manager confirmed she’d be given proper accommodations to compensate her for the airline’s mistake. Instead, police removed the Black Woman as if she herself were the true threat to the passengers on board. Then Swinney chose to rightfully raise her voice.

Dallas Urban/YouTube

From what videos are showing, and firsthand witnesses are reporting, Swinney was not a threat. She posed no danger to the plane or the passengers. Several questions remain: Whose vomit was it? Why wasn’t it cleaned even after a delay-causing cleaning? Wouldn’t a cleaning delay mean the plane should be extra clean instead of a literal biohazard? 


Frontier Airlines reimbursed Swinney for the cost of her original flight home, according to WTVD, but she has hired a civil rights attorney to fight the charges leading to her arrest: misdemeanor trespassing and failure to comply with airport rules. She’ll stand before a judge in a Las Vegas courtroom in June.

“What really hurt me is for my child to see me getting handcuffed and taken away from her,” Swinney said. “Twelve hours I was in jail. Twelve hours.”


Correction: Sept. 21, 2019, 11:06 a.m. ET: This story has been edited to remove unattributed text and to add fuller sourcing.



While I sincerely appreciate that other passengers have corroborated Rosetta’s truth, it sure would have been nice if some of them stood up in the moment — maybe refuse to reboard the plane until the entire flight crew is replaced?