An American Airlines passenger is in custody and banned for life from the airline after he was filmed sucker punching a flight attendant on a trip from Mexico to California.
Alexander Tung Cuu Le, from Orange County, was arrested on Wednesday once 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 U.S Department of Justice.
Le 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 asked for coffee and was told to wait. The situation escalated minutes later after Le was barred by flight staff from using the first class bathroom.
Incident Began After Irate Passenger Was Barred By Plane Staff From Using First Class Bathroom
Video shows Le rushing up behind the unsuspecting attendant before unleashing a haymaker to the back of the man’s head, who was facing the opposite direction at the time of the sucker punch.
✈️ Banned for life: Watch an airline passenger, allegedly upset he was not allowed to use the 1st class lav, punch a flight attendant in the back. He was led off the plane with hands in zip-ties and banned from American Airlines for life. pic.twitter.com/bVebWWc8Xd
— HLN (@HLNTV) September 23, 2022
Witnesses say Le began acting erratically within 20 minutes after departing Los Cabos International Airport, with Le reportedly loitering along the plane and away from his seat as well as threatening violence against plane staff, the outlet reports.
His behavior eventually escalated into actual violence when he punched the fight attendant in the back of the head, video of which has since been widely shared on social media.
Le was detained and arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation upon landing, and reportedly charged with a federal offense of interfering with a flight crew, according to an affidavit of the company against him. He was pictured with zip-tie arm restraints as he was walked from the grounded plane by authorities upon arrival at LAX.
Irate Passenger Detained By FBI Upon Landing, Banned 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, and announced he would be permanently prohibited from flying with the carrier again.
“Acts of violence against our team members are not tolerated by American Airlines,” the statement reads. “The individual involved in this incident will never be allowed to travel with us in the future, and we will work closely with law enforcement in their investigation.”
33-year-old Alexander Tung Cuu Le from Orange County, #California could face a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison after assaulting an @AmericanAir flight attendant, according to @TheJusticeDept. Le was banned from traveling #American Air indefinitely. pic.twitter.com/h6seRKAkIm
— BNN Newsroom (@BNNBreaking) September 23, 2022
American Airlines expressed gratitude to other crew members and passengers onboard who jumped in to restrain Le as the pilot landed the plane at LAX.
“We thank our crew for their quick action and professionalism to ensure the safety of their fellow team members and customers on board,” the statement continues. “Our thoughts are with our injured flight attendant, and we are ensuring that they and their fellow crew members have the support they need at this time.”
Attack Comes Amidst Drop In Incidents Involving Unruly Passengers, Federal Aviation Administration Figures Show
This year alone, airlines have reported upwards of 2,000 incidents involving unruly passengers, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
That figure is actually down from nearly 6,000 last year, even with a 38 percent spike in U.S air travel, per ABC 6 Action News.
The majority of incidents from last year involved passengers who refused to put on face masks amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. However in April, the federal mandate for masks on planes was tossed by a judge.
While many of those incidents rarely turn violent, there are notable cases of attacks on plane staffers mid-flight.
A young lady made headlines recently for punching a Southwest Airlines flight attendant, and broke several of her teeth. That woman was sentenced to 15 months in prison.