US flight hijacked after passenger assault, airline says

An American Airlines flight was hijacked Wednesday night after a passenger allegedly assaulted a flight attendant.

Flight 976 had taken off from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City and was heading to John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California, but was diverted to Denver due to the incident, a indicated the airline.

The police apprehended the passenger at the boarding gate, according to American Airlines.

The airline did not provide additional details or the status of the flight attendant.

“Acts of violence against our team members will not be tolerated by American Airlines,” he said in a written statement. “The person involved in this incident will never be allowed to travel with American Airlines in the future, but we will not be satisfied until he has been prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. This behavior must stop,” and aggressive law enforcement and prosecution is the best deterrent. ”

The identity of the passenger was not disclosed and details of the charges were not immediately available.

Denver Airport Police confirmed the flight was diverted to Denver around 6 p.m. and said the FBI was investigating.

The flight left Denver for Orange County around 9:30 p.m., according to American Airlines.

Reports of unruly behavior on planes, including violence against crew members, have increased since the start of the pandemic.

Data provided by the Federal Aviation Administration shows that 923 investigations were opened this year into violations of specific regulations or federal laws.

This number is up from 183 last year and 146 in 2019. Prior to 2021, the highest number of investigations initiated in the 26-year period back to 1995 was 310 in 2004.

In May, a Southwest Airlines flight attendant lost two teeth after a passenger punched her in the face and pulled her hair, court documents show. The attendant had asked the passenger to fasten her seat belt, store her tablet and wear her mask correctly during the final descent.

The passenger told law enforcement that she was acting in self-defense, according to court documents.

She was charged in federal court with assault and interference with flight crew members and flight attendants and pleaded not guilty, court records show.

On Tuesday, the Federal Aviation Administration received 4,941 reports of unruly passenger behavior this year, including 3,580 mask incident reports.

The rate of such incidents has fallen by about 50% from the records set earlier this year, but FAA administrator Steve Dickson said in September that progress must continue.

“This remains a serious security threat, and one incident is one too many,” Dickson said in a written statement.

The FAA does not have the power to prosecute criminal cases, but can impose fines and implemented a zero tolerance campaign in January that allowed it to issue fines without warning letters.

This year, the agency fined passengers over $ 1 million for allegations of unruly behavior.

Jay blackman and Juliette Arcodie contributed.

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