American Airlines flight crew diverted a plane to Kansas City Sunday during a service across country because of an unruly passenger, the airline said.
American Airlines flight 1775 with service from Los Angeles (LAX) to Washington, D.C. (DCA) diverted to Kansas City (MCI) due to an unruly passenger,” the airline said in a statement.
“The flight landed safely at MCI at 2:28 p.m. local time, and law enforcement met the flight on arrival,” it added. “We’re grateful to our crew members, who dedicate themselves to the safety and care of our customers and who handled the circumstances with the utmost skill and professionalism.”
A passenger was interfering with the crew, according to aviation officials. The incident falls under the jurisdiction of the FBI, who confirmed the incident and made an arrest.
“Pilots diverted the flight due to an unruly passenger interfering with the flight crew,” the FBI’s statement said. “The individual has been taken into custody. No further information is available at this time.”
The Federal Aviation Administration also confirmed the incident.
Mouaz Moustafa, a resident of Washington, DC, was aboard the flight. He told media that he saw a flight attendant yelling to another flight attendant to turn the lights on. The plane then began rapidly descending, Moustafa said.
According to eye witness accounts, a passenger tried to strong-arm his way into the cockpit and open the plane door. Flight attendants allegedly hit the man in the head with a coffee pot to subdue him. Multiple passengers also rushed to the front to help hold the crazed passenger down until they safely landed.
When the flight landed, police and the FBI came onboard, Moustafa said. The airline rescheduled passengers on other flights.
The unruly passenger is indicative of a larger trend in air travel
Statistically, in-flight disturbances are becoming more commonplace. In 2021, the FAA logged nearly 6,000 unruly passenger reports. Of those reports, however, a whopping 72 percent related to masking policies.
In January of 2021, the FAA announced a zero-tolerance policy or unruly passenger behavior that skips warnings or counseling and goes directly to penalties, which can include heavy fines and jail time. The policy has been extended multiple times and will not expire until mask mandates are lifted.
Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, said that tensions aboard aircrafts skyrocketed during the pandemic. The big incidents make headlines, but airline crews deal with a steady stream of small abuses everyday.
“We also have a lot of incidents that are happening more regularly that are violent maybe not directly toward someone, but in actions and words: punching backs of seats, spitting, throwing trash at people, yelling obscenities, using racial, gender and homophobic slurs,” Nelson said.
“Today when flight attendants put on their uniforms, they don’t know if it’s going to be a signal of leadership and authority for safety in the cabin or a target for a violent attack.”