A man caught on video hitting a flight attendant on the back of the head during an American Airlines flight was arrested after the plane landed in Los Angeles.
Authorities accused Alexander Tung Cuu Le of disrupting a flight crew on Thursday (Friday AEST). Le, of Westminster, California, faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
The incident happened Wednesday on a flight from San Jose del Cabo, Mexico, to Los Angeles International Airport.
Video posted by another passenger showed a man running behind a male flight attendant and hitting him as the crew member walked the other way.
According to an FBI agent affidavit, shortly after takeoff, Le grabbed another flight attendant by the shoulders and asked for coffee. He was told to wait.
When 33-year-old Le moved from the back of the plane to an empty seat near the first-class cabin, the male flight attendant asked him to return to his assigned seat.
Instead, Le stood in a two-fisted fighting stance and swung an arm at the crewman, but missed, according to the affidavit.
The flight attendant was on his way to report the incident to the pilot when he was hit in the back of the head.
Several passengers “arrested” Le and tied his hands and legs with shackles provided by another flight attendant, according to the FBI agent.
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The injured flight attendant, who spent the rest of the flight with an ice pack on his head, was taken to a hospital.
The president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, the union that represents American cabin crew, said the passenger engaged in “dangerous, life-threatening behavior.”
“Fortunately, the crew and passengers overpowered the passenger and the plane landed safely,” union official Julie Hedrick said.
“This violent behavior endangers the safety of all passengers and crew and must stop.”
Airline spokesman Curtis Blessing said the Americans had banned the man from ever traveling on the airline. He said American is helping law enforcement investigate the incident.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, airlines have reported nearly 2,000 incidents involving unruly passengers this year, compared with nearly 6,000 last year, despite a 38 percent increase in the number of U.S. air travelers.
Most incidents in 2021 and early 2022 involved passengers refusing to wear face masks, but the federal requirement for masks on airplanes and public transportation was lifted by a federal judge in April.
Government figures do not indicate how often the incidents turn violent, although it is rare.
The most notorious case involved a young woman beating a Southwest flight attendant on a plane in California, breaking some of her teeth. The woman was sentenced to 15 months in prison.