American Airlines flight 976 diverted from its original destination of John Wayne Airport to Denver International after a male passenger, thought to be traveling in first class, allegedly punched a female flight attendant twice in the face in a dispute over masks according to witnesses.
Mackenzie Rose, a passenger on the flight, said she saw the flight attendant walk by after the incident ‘with blood on her mask’, while a photo posted on Twitter appeared to show crew members and passengers duct-taping the man to his seat.
American Airlines released a statement following the plane’s arrival in Denver, expressing their ‘outrage’ at the incident and promising to ban the individual, who has not yet been named, from all future American Airlines services.
Police met the plane at the gate and immediately apprehended the individual, who was snapped sitting in the airport in handcuffs by Rose.
The flight took off from JFK Airport just before 5pm E.T and landed in Colorado at 6:43pm Denver time according to flight tracking website Flightview.
The assault allegedly occurred when a male passenger who witnesses said was traveling in either first class or business class was asked to put on a mask by a flight attendant, a request which was refused.
A heated argument ensued before the male passenger swung a pair of punches at the female flight attendant according to witnesses, hitting her 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’, said Mackenzie Rose, a passenger aboard American Airlines flight 976 told CBSLA.
‘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.’
Rose went on to say that she had ‘an impression that there might be a substance or alcohol involved’ in the incident.
An image snapped by a passenger and circulated on Twitter appeared to show crew members and other passengers rallying to secure the man to an airplane seat using duct tape following the assault.
The airline confirmed it intends to prosecute the individual, who it says was apprehended by law enforcement at the gate following the safe landing at Denver International Airport.
‘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,’ it 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.’
The flight attendant who suffered the assault was transported to a local hospital following the landing according to the airline, which said it could not comment any further on her condition for privacy reasons.
There are conflicting reports from passengers about whether her nose was broken by the punches, with no confirmation of her condition from 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 airline said.
‘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.’