Sunday, October 2, 2022

Video shows passenger hitting flight attendant on flight from Cabo to LAX, Feds say

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Alexander Tung Cuu Le is a California man accused of hitting an American Airlines flight attendant on a plane en route from Cabo to LAX in a videotaped incident, prosecutors say. The video was shared on social media on September 22, 2022. Le was arrested on federal charges the same day, the U.S. Attorneys for the Central District of California said in a news release.

“An Orange County man was charged today in a federal criminal complaint alleging that he struck a flight attendant in the back of the head during a flight from Mexico to Los Angeles — an assault videotaped by a fellow passenger,” the statement said the press release. “Alexander Tung Cuu Le, 33, of Westminster, is charged with interfering with flight crew members and cabin crew, a crime that carries a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in federal prison. Le is expected to make his first appearance this afternoon in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles.”

Saad Mohseni, who shared the video on Twitter, wrote in his tweet which accompanied the footage: “Aerial Violence: A friend was traveling from Cabo to LAX when a passenger hit a flight attendant for not allowing him to use the first-class restroom. He was later held by other passengers and arrested as he touched down.”

According to the criminal complaint, the incident occurred on September 21, 2022 on American Airlines Flight 377, which was en route from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico to Los Angeles, California. Alexander Le was arrested at LAX airport, according to prosecutors. According to the complaint, “AA 377’s crew had to focus on subduing Le, which interfered with their duties and limited their ability to serve over 100 passengers.”

An FBI agent said in the complaint that about 20 minutes after takeoff, two flight attendants began “providing food and beverage service.” Witnesses told FBI agents that Le then left seat 17A, grabbed one of the flight attendants from behind by the left shoulder, and asked for coffee. According to the complaint, the flight attendant asked Le to wait. “Moments later, Le” grabbed the flight attendant “by the shoulders from behind.” The flight attendant “stepped back and raised a hand in a defensive posture. Le then went to the front of the plane,” the complaint said.

According to the complaint, “Le stayed near the first class cabin and then sat in an unoccupied aisle seat near the bulkhead that was the bulkhead between the first class cabin and the main cabin.” One the flight attendant approached Le to “discuss his loitering near the first-class cabin” and asked him to return to his seat,” the complaint said. Witnesses told investigators Le then got up and “assumed a fighting stance” toward the companion and swung his arm at him, missing, the complaint said. The flight attendant then decided to report Le to the pilot and go to the front of the plane, according to the complaint.

Witnesses told the FBI that Le then “rushed” at the flight attendant and punched him in the back of the head, a moment the complaint said was caught on video. Le then fled to the rear of the plane and was held in flexible handcuffs, according to the complaint. His legs and hands were bound, the FBI said. He was also restrained with seat belt extenders, according to the complaint. The flight attendant who was hit said he spent the remainder of the flight icing the back of his head in the plane’s galley, according to the complaint.

Another flight attendant “was shaking so badly that she was having trouble performing her duties,” and one told the FBI the flight was “the longest hour and 58 minutes of my life,” according to the complaint. The injured flight attendant was hospitalized as a result of the attack, according to the complaint.

In a statement, the airline said: “American Airlines Flight 377, operating a flight from San Jose del Cabo (SJD) to Los Angeles (LAX), was struck by law enforcement upon arrival because an unruly passenger physically assaulted a flight attendant. The plane landed safely and taxied to the gate where police removed the person.”

American Airlines added, “American Airlines will not tolerate acts of violence against our team members. The individual 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. We thank our crew for their quick action and professionalism to ensure the safety of their teammates and customers on board. Our thoughts are with our injured flight attendant and we are making sure she and her fellow crew members are given the support they need at this time.”

According to the Federal Aviation Administration this year through September 20, 2022, there have been 1,973 reports of unruly passengers in the United States, with 680 investigations initiated and 468 enforcement procedures initiated. As of September of this year, there were two incidents per 10,000 flights, the FAA said in its recalcitrant passenger report. In 2019, 146 investigations were launched following reports of unruly passenger behavior. This rose to 1,099 in 2021. The previous high since 1995 was 310 in 2004, according to the FAA.

Association of Flight Attendants-CWA President Sara Nelon said in a statement: “It’s an incredibly tough day for flight attendants to go to work. But across the country they do. They’re doing it even during what continues to be the most perilous time for their personal safety — not just because they’re brave, but because they’re committed to bringing people together. Many people would like us to believe that we are divided, and many today will say, ‘What is wrong with the people?’ There must be quick and clear consequences for acts of violence, but there must also be a leadership that asks, ‘What is the right thing to do and demonstrate?’”

Nelson added: “We see kindness on our planes every day and it makes a difference. Across this country, flight attendants have a message for the traveling public and the communities in which we live and work: be kind, acknowledge good, thank a worker in airports, grocery and retail stores, bakeries, factories, on the Construction, in schools, hospitals and on farms, fields, restaurants, in the post office and in deliveries. Americans crave solidarity and everyone needs a little help. This is your flight attendant speaking: Be a helper. We all need a little help to heal and enjoy this flight.”

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