An unruly passenger flying with American Airlines was hit with a coffee pot across the head by a flight attendant, after attempting to open the plane door. The man was also punched in the jaw, zip tied and duct taped. The incident obliged the flight from Los Angeles to Washington to be diverted to Kansas City, Missouri.
1. Unruly passenger
The episode that ended up turning violent happened on 13 February, but the diverted plane landed safely at Kansas City International Airport. The suspect, a 50-year-old man named Juan Remberto Rivas, was taken into custody after the crew, with the help of some passengers, managed to immobilize him.
Rivas was charged on 14 February with one count of interference with a flight attendant. According to a press release from the US Attorney’s Office in Kansas City, a detention hearing is pending but has not yet been scheduled. It wasn’t immediately clear if Rivas had an attorney.
2. Witness testimony
Based on a federal affidavit, the press was able to take a closer look at the sequence of actions that triggered the chaos onboard.
According to the witnesses, Rivas was allegedly creating a disturbance and walked to the cockpit area, grabbing plastic silverware and holding it “like a shank”. The affidavit said he then grabbed a small champagne bottle by the neck and tried to break it on the counter, before kicking and shoving a service cart into one of the flight attendants.
The affidavit further said Rivas, who is about 1,90 meters and 108 kilos, grabbed the handle of an exit door and began pulling it. A flight attendant tried to stop him by hitting him twice in the head with a coffee pot. Meanwhile, several passengers came forward to help.
One of the passengers was a police officer who was able to pull Rivas away from the door, according to the affidavit. Another passenger punched Rivas in the jaw and a third grabbed his neck and pulled him to the floor. Passengers and flight attendants restrained Rivas until they could secure his hands and feet with zip ties and duct tape.
Rivas was treated for a laceration to his head, the news release said.
We’re grateful to our crew members, who are consistently dedicated to the safety and care of our customers and who handled the circumstances with the utmost skill and professionalism.American Airlines
3. Increase in incidents caused by passengers
A surge in unruly airline passengers has been noticed over the past year, with some degenerating into violence. The Association of Professional Flight Attendants shared a statement on Twitter saying that the passenger attempted to open a forward passenger door and it marked “another dangerous, life-threatening incident” on a plane.
Given the rise in disruptions caused by airline passengers, Delta Air Lines has recently penned a letter to the US Department of Justice saying that any person convicted of a disruption onboard a flight should be added to the national “no fly” list.