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Unruly passenger punches American Airlines flight attendant, forces diversion

Unruly passenger punches American Airlines flight attendant, forces diversion
American Airlines said it's working with authorities who are investigating an alleged assault of a flight attendant aboard a coast-to-coast flight. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 28 (UPI) -- American Airlines diverted one of its flights to Denver after a passenger carried out "one of the worst displays of unruly behavior we've ever witnessed," the company's CEO said Thursday.

Flight 976 was en route from New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport to John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, Calif., on Wednesday when the violence happened.

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"Last night, @AmericanAir had one of the worst displays we've seen, when a passenger violently assaulted one of our flight attendants," CEO Doug Parker said in an Instagram post. "Thankfully, our flight attendant is recovering and we are making sure she and her fellow crew members have the support they need."

Paul Hartshorn, a spokesman for the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, said the passenger punched the flight attendant at least two times, causing her to have "multiple broken bones in her face."

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"We are still trying to understand what happened," Hartshorn told The Dallas Morning News. "As far as we know, she may have bumped him. She wasn't even working in this particular cabin class when it happened."

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Parker said the passenger involved will be permanently banned from flying on American Airlines and the company was working to ensure they they are prosecuted "to the full extent possible."

"But at the end of the day, while these interactions are not the norm, even one is too many, and they must stop," Parker said.

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CNN reported that the FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration were investigating the alleged assault.

American Airlines said law enforcement officials removed the passenger from the plane and detained him, according to KABC-TV in Los Angeles. The FBI said no arrests had been made.

The APFA released a statement later Thursday saying the injured flight attendant was on her way home after being released from the hospital in Denver.

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"This passenger will not be flying on American again, but that does not address the root problem. We must continue to push the FAA and Department of Transportation to implement a national 'No-Fly' list that encompasses all airlines," the statement said.

The FAA said there have been 4,941 reports of unruly passengers this year, resulting in more than $1 million in fines.

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