TSA Agent Arrested for Throwing Hot Coffee on Pilot

This is an old story, but one I have been meaning to highlight for the last two weeks. Should a pilot have spoken up when he heard a Transportation Security Officer (TSO) using filthy language while in costume or just minded his own business? That's not an easy question to answer.

...[A] Transportation Security Administration screener was arrested at New York JFK for allegedly "hurling a cup of hot coffee at an American Airlines pilot who told her and some colleagues to tone down a profanity- laced conversation in a terminal … ."

The Post cited unnamed sources in reporting the incident, which is said to have occurred March 28. The newspaper apparently first learned of it this week.

The spat apparently began when 54-year-old American Airlines pilot Steven Trivett was leaving JFK's Terminal 8 and overheard the screeners' conversation.

The Post's sources say Trivett admonished the screeners, suggesting they behave more professionally while in uniform. Trivett also told the screeners he thought they should "not use profanity or the n-word" while on the job, one of the Post's sources said.

That's when things escalated, according to the Post. One screener allegedly cursed at the pilot and told him to "mind his own business." When the pilot tried to grab at the ID badge of 30-year-old TSA officer Lateisha El, she pushed him and threw a full cup of hot coffee on him, according to the Post's unnamed sources.

The pilot was not seriously injured. El now faces harassment and misdemeanor assault charges, the the Post says...

As I argued in my controversial On the Matter of Flight Attendant Professionalism post, it is not only proper, but essential that when employees represent their company by wearing a uniform--even if they are off-duty--they act in a manner that is above reproach.

Here, Ms. Leteisha and her gang clearly were acting inappropriately. I can just picture what was going on, because I've seen something similar at LAX.

"N-this. F-that." Yup--not surprising considering the caliber of people who work for the TSA.

And I am actually happy the pilot had the guts to speak up. Now that Ms. Leteisha is fired, you can bet that her colleagues will guard their tongues more closely going forward (at least let's hope so...).

But the pilot did not just reprimand the group for acting unprofessional--he tried to grab the badge of Ms. Leteisha, who responded by pushing him away then hurling the coffee on him. Absolutely no excuse for her behavior, but the pilot should learn a lesson from this too--don't touch, under any circumstance. I would have demanded the agent's name as well or to see her ID badge, but never reached for it. If the agent did not comply, I would have taken out my iPhone and snapped a picture of her.

Surely that would have made them just as mad, but they would not have been able to come back and say I had tried to "physically harass" them.

It really is sad that this event had to happen in the first place. I hope that some training on professionalism is added to the TSA curriculum going forward because the organization as a whole certainly lacks it now.


mike May 3, 2012 at 06:36 pm

The pilots authority ends when he leaves the airplane and he had not authority to grab at her ID badge. I think the TSA screener has a good case of self defense for battery due to the unwanted touching. You can't touch a TSA screener's ID badge. If he wanted to report the offending TSA screener he could have videotaped her or noted her description and reported it to a TSA supervisor.

Russ May 3, 2012 at 09:06 pm

Really, an agent can verbally assault a pilot but the pilot should have showed restraint. That's the problem with the PC world where no one stands for any decency. The TSA should be abolished. I fly every week and 95% of the TSA "officers" are tools. The rest are good people managed and supervised by a huge agency congratulating themselves on a daily basis for herding people into suspect technology to catch some dumd a** carrying a fishing knife.

Steve Trivett March 6, 2015 at 09:32 am

I am the "Pilot", Steven Trivett, I never reached for her badge--I leaned in with my neck and head to try to read her I.D. badge, I never touched her, as the witness agreed with me. The Post sources, which is the Port Authority Police Report, is a statement from the TSO without fact.

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