By Joe Sutton, Sonnet Swire and Amir Vera | CNN
An American Airlines flight was diverted to Kansas City International Airport in Missouri on Sunday afternoon because of “an unruly passenger,” the airline said in a statement.
“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 statement, provided to CNN, said.
“The flight landed safely at MCI at 2:28 p.m. local time, and law enforcement was requested to meet the flight on arrival,” it added. “We’re grateful to our crew members, who are consistently dedicated to the safety and care of our customers and who handled the circumstances with the utmost skill and professionalism.”
Kansas City Aviation Department spokesperson Joe McBride told CNN there was a “passenger interfering with the flight crew,” adding the incident will be under the jurisdiction of the FBI.
The FBI confirmed the incident in a statement to CNN, adding the individual in question had been taken into custody.
The passenger, a 50-year-old man, has been charged with one count of assaulting and intimidating a flight attendant and thereby interfering in the performance of the flight attendant’s duties, according to a US Justice Department news release.
The man will remain in federal custody until a detention hearing is scheduled, the release said.
Flight attendants and passengers subdued passenger
The man, who is 6 feet, 3 inches tall and 240 pounds, told flight attendants “people were attempting to hurt him and they followed him on the plane,” according to an affidavit of the incident.
The man went on to tell flight attendants “he heard the individuals harming his family over the telephone,” the affidavit said. When asked what the individuals looked like, the passenger told flight attendants one was sitting next to him on the plane and another had a knife.
A flight attendant took the man’s phone and saw he tried to call 911, but couldn’t get through, the affidavit said.
Minutes after being seated, the man asked for a cup of water and then walked to the cockpit area of the plane, “and told the flight attendants that they were not flying and that the flight attendants were lying to him.” A flight attendant used a beverage cart to create distance between her and the passenger, the affidavit said.
The man then grabbed some plastic silverware, removed the napkin around it and placed the silverware in his shirt sleeve “holding it like a shank,” the Justice Department news release said. A flight attendant told investigators he felt threatened by the knife.
“(The man) then grabbed a small champagne bottle by the neck of the bottle and attempted to break the bottle on the counter. He began kicking and shoving the service cart into one of the flight attendants,” the release said.
The man then attempted to pull open the plane’s exit door, the release said.
“A flight attendant grabbed a coffee pot and hit (the man) twice in the head with it,” the release said. “Several passengers came forward to assist the flight attendants.”
One of those passengers was a police officer, who pulled the man away from the door. One passenger punched the man in the jaw and another one grabbed him by the neck and pulled him to the floor, the release said.
Flight attendants told investigators they did not serve the man any alcohol during the flight.
Mouaz Moustafa, a resident of Washington, DC, was aboard the flight and told CNN when the flight landed, police and the FBI came onboard. Passengers were rescheduled on another flight.
According to FAA data, 2021 was a bad year for unruly airplane passenger behavior in the United States, with 5,981 reports of unruly passengers logged by the agency as of December 31. Of those, 4,290 — nearly 72% — were mask-related incidents.