According to the Justice Department and American Airlines, a rogue passenger who was caught on camera striking a flight attendant in the head has been prosecuted with a federal crime and permanently barred from flying with the carrier.
On Wednesday, a flight from San José del Cabo, Mexico, to Los Angeles was the scene of the incident.
When the plane landed at Los Angeles International Airport, police apprehended a 33-year-old man named Alexander Tung Cuu Le from Westminster, California. On Thursday, he was charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California with one count of interference with flight crew members and attendants, which carries a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
A statement claims that approximately 20 minutes into the trip, Le grabbed a flight attendant’s shoulder and asked for coffee. Passengers said he also caused a disturbance by congregating near the first-class seating area.
Another flight attendant asked Le to return to his seat, and when he didn’t, Le “supposedly stood up and assumed a fighting position towards the flight attendant by making closed fists with both of his hands,” as stated in the DOJ statement.
Passenger Barrie Livingstone filmed the moment that Le missed the flight attendant with a swipe of his arm. Le surged forward and struck the flight attendant on the head as she turned to leave, drawing gasps of alarm and outrage from passengers. According to the DOJ, “many people” saw the attack unfold.
After that, we “fled” to the plane’s rear, where he was “apprehended by many passengers” and crew personnel, as the statement put it.
Although his “hands and legs were cuffed,” investigators said that Le “continuously unbuckled his seatbelt,” forcing flight attendants to use seatbelt extenders to keep him in place.
American Airlines has permanently banned Le from flying with them in the future.
American Airlines issued a statement saying, “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 involved will never again be allowed to travel with us.
Once the plane landed at LAX, law officers met the plane and commended the crew and passengers for keeping Le restrained.
On Thursday, Le made an appearance in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.
U.S. attorney’s office spokesman Ciaran McEvoy told SFGate that the hearing had been postponed until Monday. There will be a bail hearing to decide if he may be released on bond at that time. McEvoy also noted that Mr. Le had not entered a plea at this time.
Flight attendants have been the target of a dramatic increase in violence over the past two years, most likely as a result of passengers’ often aggressive and defiant reactions to mask regulations during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of “unruly passenger reports” received by the FAA in 2017 was an astounding 5,981. The FAA only looked into 183 reports that year.