On Thursday, federal prosecutors brought charges against a California man who they say assaulted an American Airlines flight attendant in the back of the head.
California resident Alexander Tung Cuu Le, 33, is facing up to 20 years in federal prison after being charged with interference with flight crew members and attendants.
On September 21st, Le flew from Los Angeles International Airport to San José del Cabo, Mexico, on American Airlines Flight 377.
According to an affidavit filed by an FBI special agent in support of the lawsuit, the conflict on the flight began when Le stood up from his seat and requested for coffee during beverage service, grabbed one flight attendant by the shoulders.
According to the affidavit, another flight attendant who tried to speak with Le was met with “a fighting attitude.” According to the affidavit, Le raced toward the attendant and hit him in the back of the head as the attendant turned toward the front of the plane to report Le’s behavior to the pilot.
The affidavit states that Le “used a closed fist to punch flight attendant,” and that the assault was captured on film by a passenger.
Somebody walks up to the front of the plane, where the flight attendants are, and proceeds to punch one of them, as seen in a viral video that has since gone viral online. People on the plane sent out a collective gasp as they saw what happened.
According to the affidavit, as Le attempted to exit through the rear of the aircraft, passengers seized him and secured him using flex cuffs provided by a flight attendant.
A flight attendant reported that Le “continually unbuckled his seatbelt, prompting them to bind him to the seat using seatbelt extenders.” Despite being moved away from the aisle and secured further, Le “continuously unbuckled his seatbelt.”
According to the affidavit, the flight attendant who was assaulted spent the rest of the trip with ice on his head in the plane’s galley before being taken to the hospital upon landing.
The affidavit further claimed that another flight attendant “was shaking so violently that she had difficulties executing her duties” and that she described the journey as “the longest hour and 58 minutes of my life.”
The US Attorney’s office stated in a release that Le’s court date had been postponed from Thursday to Monday, September 26 at 10 a.m.
To get more information, CNN has contacted Le’s lawyer.
In a statement, American Airlines said, “Acts of violence against our team members are not condoned by American Airlines.” We will cooperate fully with law enforcement officials as they investigate this matter and the person implicated will be banned from future trips.
According to an American Airlines statement, the airline “thanks its crew for its swift action and professionalism” in ensuring the safety of its employees and passengers. We are doing everything we can to make sure the injured flight attendant and the rest of the crew receive the resources they need right now.
More than 24,000 flight attendants at American Airlines are represented by the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), which issued a statement condemning the event.
“This violent behavior puts the safety of all passengers and crew at peril and must stop,” said Julie Hedrick, national president of APFA.
To quote the APFA: “We stand in solidarity with the affected crew members and will do all in our power to ensure the passenger is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Provisions made to deal with disruptive passengers
The Federation Aviation Administration adopted a “zero tolerance” policy for disruptive passengers in January 2021. This policy ignores warnings and counseling in favor of severe fines and even jail time for repeat offenders.
A passenger on an American Airlines flight from New York to Los Angeles in February 2021 was sentenced to four months in prison after being found guilty of interference with flight crew personnel.
In 2021, the FAA suggested fining disruptive passengers $5 million.
The FAA has received 1,973 reports of disruptive passengers so far in 2022.
Since 2021, when a record number of occurrences of disruptive passenger behavior were reported, the trend has reversed. Nearly 6,000 allegations of disorderly conduct were filed with the FAA in 2021.
Although fewer incidents have been reported, more have resulted in enforcement action being taken. There have been 468 cases of enforcement initiated so far in 2022. There were three hundred and fifty in the year 2021.