Anibal Mercado told the New York Post he swung into action aboard JetBlue Flight 832 from the Dominican Republic when he saw "fear in passengers' eyes."
The 39-year-old NYPD veteran said the allegedly drunken passenger, identified as Antonio Ynoa, 22, had become belligerent when flight attendants advised him to stop drinking and wouldn't provide him with soda to mix with the rum he had brought on board. When the suspect's yelling escalated into punching a male flight attendant multiple times, Mercado had seen enough.
"The babies were crying, I could see the fear in the passengers' faces," Mercado said. "If I didn't step in, I didn't even want to imagine what could have happened. Everyone was very alarmed."
Mercado confronted Ynoa, identified himself as a police officer, wrestled him to the floor and restrained him with plastic cuffs provided by the flight crew.
"He struck me a few times in the face," Mercado said. "I kept telling him to calm down; he wanted to know why he was getting arrested."
Ynoa allegedly kept up a foul-mouthed rant even as he was taken into custody by Port Authority police upon landing at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport. Mercado said the suspect even managed to punch two of the Port Authority officers and kicked at them.
After the unexpected episode, Mercado was still back on the job in the Bronx later in the day, the Post said.
"Even when I'm on vacation I'm still a police officer," Mercado told the New York Daily News. "The only difference is it was 12,000 feet in the air."