A passenger who allegedly punched a flight attendant in the back of the head during an American Airlines flight from Mexico to Los Angeles was detained after the plane landed on Wednesday,.
The airline said in a statement that the accident occurred on Flight 377 from San Jose del Cabo to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
The FBI, which has been in charge of the investigation since the alleged assault occurred during the flight, said Alexander Tong Ko Lee, 33, of Westminster, California, was arrested on suspicion of interfering with cabin crew, a federal crime.
Video taken by a passenger, Barry Livingston, shows the flight attendant standing in the aisle, facing the back of the plane, and asking a passenger, “Are you threatening me. Are you threatening me?” Then he turns around and starts heading to the front of the plane.
At that point, a passenger was seen lunging at him and hitting him hard before returning to his seat.
Malik Earnest, a KFMB-TV affiliate CBS San Diego producer who was on the plane, cited “witnesses” who said passengers “helped restrain” the suspect until the plane landed. Los Angeles Airport police took him off the plane.
American Airlines released a statement saying that the passenger “physically assaulted a flight attendant” and “will never be permitted to fly with us in the future.”
The Association of Professional Flight Attendants, an association that represents more than 24,000 flight attendants at American Airlines, has publicly responded to the alleged assault in statement Released on Thursday. The organization described the incident as “serious” and “life-threatening” and part of a pattern of similar situations that put flight attendants at risk.
“This violent behavior puts the safety of all passengers and crew at risk and must stop,” said Julie Hendrik, national president of the AFPA. “APFA fully supports the affected crew members, and will make every effort to ensure that the passenger faces prosecution to the fullest extent permitted by law.”