An off-duty flight attendant for Delta Air Lines flying as a passenger was subdued by the flight’s crew members and has been placed in FBI custody as officials said he was ‘going to take the plane down,’ police said.
The plane was forced to land in Oklahoma City on Friday and no passengers or crew were injured, Delta spokesman Eric Zeugschmidt told CNN.
Other passengers on the packed flight described the man as ‘strange’ and told the outlet that he was ‘dressed quite oddly’ wearing a helmet with elbow and knee pads during his travels.
Scroll down for video
The man, whose name was not revealed, was on Delta Flight 1730 from Los Angeles to Atlanta when he allegedly took over the intercom
He then allegedly assaulted two flight attendants and ‘was going to take the plane down,’ police said
The plane was forced to land in Oklahoma City on Friday and n o passengers or crew were injured
Other passengers on the packed flight described the man as ‘strange’ and said he was ‘dressed quite oddly’
Passenger Benjamin Curlee, 29, recalled another passenger who was seated next to the off-duty flight attendant alleging that the ‘very weird’ man had even scribbled a note to flight attendants accusing the other passenger of being a hijacker.
Curlee recalled that passenger saying he ‘felt very uncomfortable with the guy’ who asked ‘a lot of very personal questions’ such as his name and the spelling, CNN reported.
When the plane was still two hours from its destination, Curlee recalled the captain asking over the intercom for ‘all able-bodied men please come to the front of the plane for an emergency.’
‘I feared the worst. I prayed that God would protect my family in case I was gone,’ Curlee told the outlet.
Curlee and a passenger next to him jumped from their seats to help but did not get because ‘basically every man on the plane stepped up and was in the aisle,’ he said.
‘It was very tense, very adrenaline fueled,’ Curlee said.
He said that minutes later he heard an announcement on the intercom telling passengers to return to their seats and prepare to put on their oxygen masks.
‘That created quite a stir. People behind me were saying, ‘Well, that’s really bad.’ I mean that only happens when the plane goes down,’ he said.
The man was taken into custody and transported to an Oklahoma City hospital with minor injuries, Oklahoma City Police Capt. Jermaine Johnson told the outlet.
Bomb technicians swept the plane after it landed just after 5 a.m. on Saturday, Johnson said, and the man is now in FBI custody though no charges have yet been filed.
‘I was hoping to sleep on that flight and that didn’t happen. It feels very surreal,’ Curlee said.
‘It’s a once in a lifetime event. It’s something you really always kind of in the back of your head, like, wonder if this will happen. Well today it actually did. I am very thankful that it did not end badly.’
The man was subdued by the flight’s crew members and has been placed in FBI custody
Video posted to Twitter shows the man scuffling with others on the dark plane
The incident came as the Federal Aviation Administration has worked to crack down on recent bouts of unruly passengers. Unruly passengers can face up to $35,000 in fines or imprisonment.
The Federal Aviation Administration has received around 2,900 reports of ‘unruly behavior by passengers’ this year, CNN reported.
FAA spokeswoman Maria Njoku told the outlet that about 2,200 of those reports involved passengers ‘refusing to comply with the federal facemask mandate.’
She added that the FAA has identified ‘potential violations’ in 446 cases and ‘initiated enforcement action’ in 42 of them.
In a press release last month, the FAA said the agency ‘is strictly enforcing a zero-tolerance policy toward passengers who cause disturbances on flights or fail to obey flight crew instructions in violation of the FAA’s regulations or engage in conduct proscribed by federal law.’
Sara Nelson, President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, said in a statement on Twitter that ‘the situation is out of control.’
‘Another horrific event on Delta, but across the industry reports of unruly pax are up more than 60Xs this year. That’s just what’s getting reported. Flight Attendants are heroes, but we prefer not to be,’ Nelson wrote.
The number of unruly passengers has been increasing as airline travel has started to return to pre-pandemic levels.
Data from the Transportation Security Administration shows that the agency screened 2,028,961 passengers on Friday – the highest number since March 7, 2020.
‘The growing number of travelers demonstrates this country’s resilience and the high level of confidence in COVID-19 counter measures,’ acting TSA administrator Darby LaJoye said in a statement.
‘TSA stands ready to provide a safe and secure screening process as part of the overall travel experience.’