By Elena Moore
A JetBlue aircraft sits on the tarmac. The company is one of many commercial airlines to experience unruly passenger incidents over the past year.
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Bloomberg via Getty Images
The FBI is investigating an incident aboard a JetBlue flight where witnesses say a passenger violently assaulted a flight attendant while attempting to enter the flight galley and cockpit.
According to an FBI affidavit obtained from The Daily Beast, the incident occurred Wednesday evening on Flight 261 en route to San Juan, Puerto Rico, from Boston.
The passenger reportedly ran to the front of the plane about 45 minutes before touching down in San Juan and yelled for crew members to shoot him. Witnesses told the FBI that after becoming violent, multiple crew members restrained him.
Once the plane landed, the man was arrested for interference with flight crew members and attendants, which is considered a federal offense.
The altercation comes as commercial airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration continue working to lower the number of unruly passengers on planes — a number that drastically increased compared to last year, with fines totaling over $1 million.
According to the FBI’s affidavit, a flight attendant initially stopped the man from entering the galley by confining him to an area in front of the first row of seating on the plane.
Witnesses said that as the flight attendant worked to restrain him, the man became aware that a flight crew officer had opened the cockpit door and, in response, he began to kick and punch the flight attendant trying to hold him back. He also began choking the flight attendant by his tie.
The FBI report details that the flight attendant let go of the man to avoid asphyxiating but grabbed him again before he got to the galley.
The man was then restrained by six or seven crew members, using “makeshift restraints,” including the flight attendant’s tie, according to the FBI affidavit.
For the rest of the flight, he was moved to a back seat of the plane and handcuffed with flex cuffs and held by seat belt extenders.
As of Friday, the man remained in custody in Puerto Rico, FBI Public Affairs Officer Limary Cruz-Rubio told The Washington Post, adding that the FBI continues to investigate the situation and takes the incident “very seriously.”
Unruly passenger violations have steadily gone down compared to earlier this year, according to FAA data.
Each week in February and March, approximately 12 unruly passenger incidents were reported for every 10,000 flights. Since then, numbers have dropped and now rest at about six incidents per 10,000 flights.
Opposition to wearing face masks made up nearly 73% of all incidents over the year.
As part of the push to avoid further unruly passenger incidents, Delta Airlines released a memo on Thursday advocating for airline companies to release the names of individuals on their “no-fly” lists.
“A list of banned customers doesn’t work as well if that customer can fly with another airline, ” the memo stated.
The company also said it passed over 600 names of those barred from their flights to the FAA, adding that their list stands at 1,600.
On the same day of Delta’s announcement, individuals representing airline and flight attendant advocacy organizations testified in front of the U.S. House Transportation Committee’s Subcommittee on Aviation, urging lawmakers to assist in curbing incidents.
“Every level of threat requires vigilance and scrutiny,” Sara Nelson, the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants, wrote in her written testimony.
“We cannot be lulled into a place of accepting these distractions as a new normal,” she added.