An American Airlines flight from New York to Orange County, California, was forced to divert to Denver Wednesday after the airline says a passenger “physically assaulted” a female flight attendant.
“I understand that he actually punched her twice,” fellow passenger Mackenzie Rose told CBSLA. “I did see her walk back down the aisle afterward. She had blood splattered on the outside of her mask.”
It wasn’t immediately clear what prompted the incident on Flight 976.
In a Thursday Instagram post, American CEO Doug Parker said the incident was “one of the worst displays of unruly behavior” he has witnessed. Parker said the airline would do all it can to ensure that the passenger is prosecuted “to the fullest extent possible” and work with the Federal Aviation Administration, which can levy fines to disruptive passengers.
“American Airlines will not tolerate airport or in-flight misconduct of any kind, particularly toward our crew members or airport team,” Parker said. “This type of behavior has to stop.”
“We are outraged by the reports of what took place on board,” American Airlines said in a statement to USA TODAY. ” Acts of violence against our team members will not be tolerated by American Airlines.”
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The passenger was taken into custody after the plane landed safely in Denver.
“The individual involved in this incident will never be allowed to travel with American Airlines in the future, but we will not be satisfied until he has been prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” the airline said. “This behavior must stop, and aggressive enforcement and prosecution of the law is the best deterrent.”
American Airlines has offered support to the injured flight attendant and her fellow crew members, whom they thanked for keeping everyone safe on board. The flight did later continue on to Orange County.
Flight attendants across the industry have called on Congress to do more to stem cases of air rage.
The Federal Aviation Administration announced $531,545 in civil penalties as of Aug. 19, with proposed fines ranging from $7,500 against a passenger who allegedly threatened to kill someone seated near him to $45,000 against a passenger who allegedly threw objects – including his carry-on luggage – at other passengers and put his head up a flight attendant’s skirt.