An American Airlines passenger is in custody and banned for life from the airline after he was filmed punching a flight attendant on a trip from Mexico to California.
Alexander Tung Cuu Le of Orange County was arrested Wednesday after the plane landed in Los Angeles, CBS News reports.
The 33-year-old could face a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison after assaulting the flight attendant, according to the US Department of Justice.
He was also banned from traveling American Airlines indefinitely.
The incident reportedly began shortly after takeoff, when Le allegedly grabbed another flight attendant by the shoulders and ordered coffee and was told to wait. The situation escalated minutes later, when flight staff forbade Le to use the first-class bathroom.
The incident began after the plane’s staff forbade an irate passenger to use the first class bathroom.
The video shows Le running after the unsuspecting assistant before untying a hay on the back of the man’s head, who was facing the opposite direction at the time of the punch.
✈️ Banned for Life: Watching an airline passenger, allegedly upset that he wasn’t allowed to use the first class bathroom, punch a flight attendant in the back. He was taken off the plane with his hands tied with zip ties and was banned from American Airlines for life. pic.twitter.com/bVebWWc8Xd
— HLN (@HLNTV) September 23, 2022
Witnesses say Le began acting erratically within 20 minutes of departing from Los Cabos International Airport, reportedly loitering around the plane and backing away from his seat, as well as threatening violence against him. aircraft personnel, reports the media.
His behavior eventually turned to actual violence when he punched the fight attendant in the back of the head, video of which has been widely shared on social media.
Le was stopped and arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation upon landing and reportedly charged with a federal felony count of interfering with a flight crew, according to a company affidavit against him. He was photographed wearing zip-tie arm restraints as authorities removed him from the plane on the ground upon arrival at LAX.
Angry passenger detained by FBI upon landing, barred from American Airlines for life
The airline released a statement on Thursday, the same day Le was scheduled to appear in court on the charges, announcing that he would be permanently banned from flying the airline again.
“American Airlines does not tolerate acts of violence against our team members,” the statement said. “The person involved in this incident will never be able to travel with us in the future, and we will work closely with law enforcement in their investigation.”
Alexander Tung Cuu Le, 33, of Orange County, #California could face a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison after assaulting a @AmericanAir flight attendant, according to @TheDepartmentOfJustice. He was banned from traveling #American air indefinitely. pic.twitter.com/h6seRKAkIm
— BNN press room (@BNNBreaking) September 23, 2022
American Airlines expressed its thanks to other crew members and passengers on board who stepped in to restrain Le as the pilot landed the plane at LAX.
“We thank our crew for their swift action and professionalism in ensuring the safety of their teammates and customers on board,” the statement continues. “Our thoughts are with our injured flight attendant and we are making sure they and their fellow crew members have the support they need at this time.”
The attack comes amid a drop in incidents involving unruly passengers, figures from the Federal Aviation Administration show.
This year alone, airlines reported more than 2,000 incidents involving unruly passengers, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
That number is actually down from nearly 6,000 last year, even with a 38 percent increase in U.S. air travel, for ABC 6 Action News.
Most of the incidents last year involved passengers refusing to wear masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic. However, in April, a judge struck down the federal mask-on-planes mandate.
While many of those incidents rarely turn violent, there are notable cases of attacks on aircraft personnel mid-flight.
A young woman made headlines recently for punching a Southwest Airlines flight attendant, knocking out several of her teeth. That woman was sentenced to 15 months in prison.