Alexander Tung Cuu Le, 33, of Westminster, Southern California, was arrested when the plane landed at Los Angeles International Airport, according to an American Airlines official. He was charged Thursday with one charge of interference with flight crew members and escorts, which carries a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison, according to a statement from the US Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.
According to the statement, Le grabbed a flight attendant’s shoulder and demanded coffee about 20 minutes after the plane took off. He is also said to have disturbed passengers by loitering near the first-class area of the cabin.
When another flight attendant told Le to return to his assigned seat, Le “allegedly stood up and assumed a fighting stance towards the flight attendant by making clenched fists with both hands, which the flight attendant interpreted as a threat”. said the flight attendant. statement from the DOJ.
A video taken by fellow passenger Barrie Livingstone shows Le apparently initially waving his arm at the flight attendant, but he was missing. As the attendant turned to walk away, Le can be seen running forward to hit the attendant on the head, provoking a cry of concern and indignation on the plane. The attack was “witnessed by several passengers,” the Justice Department said.
Le then “fled” to the rear of the plane, where he was “arrested by several passengers” and crew members, the statement said.
Le’s “hands and legs were handcuffed,” but he “continually unfastened his seat belt, causing flight attendants to hold him to the seat with seat belt extenders,” officials noted.
Le is banned from all future flights by American Airlines.
“Violence against our team members will not be tolerated by American Airlines,” said an American statement. “The person involved in this incident will never be allowed to travel with us in the future and we will be working closely with law enforcement in their investigation.”
The airline thanked the crew and passengers for stopping Le until the plane was met by police at LAX.
Le appeared in a US court in downtown Los Angeles on Thursday, where he was charged.
The hearing continued until Monday, Ciaran McEvoy, a spokesman for the US law firm, told SFGate. “That will be a hearing to determine his bail, if there is one. Mr Le has not argued for anything yet,” added McEvoy.
Attacks on flight attendants have skyrocketed in the past two years, largely driven by sometimes violent, defiant responses to the requirements to wear masks earlier during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Federal Aviation Administration recorded an incredible 5,981 “unruly passenger reports last year. In 2020, the FAA only investigated 183 reports.