Man traveling 1st class on American Airlines breaks attendant's nose over mask mandate
An American Airlines flight from New York City to Orange County, California had to be diverted to Denver on Wednesday, October 27, after a female flight attendant was assaulted by a male passenger over a mask dispute.
Witnesses aboard flight 976 recalled how the irate passenger punched the flight attended twice in the face after refusing to comply with the airline's mask mandate. The incident caused the flight to make an emergency landing at Denver as it flew from JFK to John Wayne Airport. Fellow passenger Mackenzie Rose said she saw the flight attendant walk by after the incident "with blood on her mask." Meanwhile, a photo shared on social media showed crew members duct-taping the man to his seat.
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In a statement following the plane's arrival in Denver, American Airlines expressed their "outrage" at the incident and said it would ban the individual — who has not been identified for legal reasons — from using the airline's services in the future. Police apprehended the individual at the gate and handcuffed him, as seen in a photo Rose shared with CBS LA.
#UPDATE: Witnesses said a a man suspected of attacking a female flight attendant, causing the American Airline's flight from JFK to John Wayne to divert to Denver, was having a dispute about wearing a mask. https://t.co/SyrtNVZudS pic.twitter.com/NDtQuEJuIj— CBS Los Angeles (@CBSLA) October 28, 2021
According to the flight-tracking website FlightView, the plane took off from JFK Airport just before 5 pm ET and landed in Colorado at 6.43 pm Denver time. Witnesses said the assault took place when the passenger — allegedly traveling in either first class or business class — was asked to cover his face with a mask. Things took an ugly turn shortly after when the male passenger punched the female flight attendant multiple times in the face. "If you're not prepared to wear a mask you're not prepared to fly, that's the moral of the story here," Mackenzie Rose told CBS LA. "I understand that he actually punched her twice. I saw her walk back down the aisle afterwards and she had blood splattered on the outside of her mask. In terms of men hitting women, it's absolutely absurd and ridiculous." She said she had "an impression that there might be a substance or alcohol involved."
Another image posted to Twitter appeared to show flight crew members desperately trying to hold the man down to an airplane seat and using duct tape to secure him following the assault.
#BREAKING: Passenger duct taped after breaking flight attendant’s nose for refusing to wear a mask in first class, according to those on @AmericanAir flight #976 from @JFKairport to @JohnWayneAir. Man arrested, flight attendant hospitalized, @fbi investigating. pic.twitter.com/m0qqSamnw5— Robert Kovacik (@RobertNBCLA) October 28, 2021
American Airlines has confirmed it intends to take the matter to court. "We are outraged by the reports of what took place on board. Acts of violence against our team members are not tolerated by American Airlines," the company said in a statement. "We have engaged local law enforcement and the FBI and we are working with them to ensure they have all the information they need. The individual 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 full extent of the law."
According to the airline, the female crew member who sustained the blows was rushed to a local hospital upon landing. Some passengers claimed her nose was broken due to the assault, but this wasn't confirmed by the airline or airport authorities. "We thank our crew for their quick action and professionalism to ensure the safety of their fellow team members and customers on board," the statement concluded. "Our thoughts are with our injured flight attendant and ensuring that she and her fellow crew members have the support they need at this time."