Los Angeles, CA – An American Airlines flight attendant was punched in the head by a passenger after he asked the passenger to return to his assigned seat, cell phone footage showed (video below).
The violent attack occurred on Sept. 21 aboard American Airlines Flight 337 from San Jose del Cabo, Mexico, to Los Angeles, CNN reported.
Approximately 20 minutes after takeoff, 33-year-old Alexander Tung Cuu Le allegedly got up out of his seat as the flight attendants were handing out food and beverages to passengers, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said in a press release on Thursday.
Le allegedly “grabbed” one flight attendant’s shoulder from behind to request coffee, then “grabbed both of the flight attendant’s shoulders from behind” a moment later, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Prosecutors said the flight attendant “stepped back and put up a defensive posture,” at which point Le headed up to the front of the aircraft.
The suspect allegedly “loitered near the first-class cabin” before plopping down in an “unoccupied aisle near the wall dividing the first-class cabin and the main cabin” of the aircraft, according to the press release.
A second flight attended then approached him and asked him to return to his assigned seat, but Le refused.
“Le did not comply and allegedly stood up and assumed a fighting stance towards the flight attendant by making closed fists with both of his hands, which the flight attendant interpreted as a threat,” prosecutors said. “Around this time, Le allegedly swung his arm at the flight attendant and missed.”
Cell phone footage showed the flight attendant asking the unruly passenger if he was threatening him just prior to the suspect swinging the missed punch.
“That’s enough,” the flight attended said as he turned and headed towards the front of the plane to report his behavior to the pilot.
Le responded by running through the first-class cabin and punching the flight attendant in the head from behind, the video showed.
Shocked passengers screamed as Le quickly retreated and headed back towards the main cabin.
Multiple passengers in the main cabin area jumped in to subdue and apprehend the violent passenger near an exit row, prosecutors said.
“Out of safety concerns, Le was moved to a different row, and his hands and legs were cuffed,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. “Le continuously unbuckled his seatbelt, causing flight attendants to restrain him to the seat with seatbelt extenders.”
Law enforcement officers met the plane at the gate when it landed in Los Angeles and took Le into custody, CNN reported.
He has since been federally charged with a single count of interference with flight crew members and attendants, according to prosecutors.
Le faces up to 20 years in prison if he is convicted.
American Airlines said in a statement that Le is banned from the airline for life, CNN reported.
“Acts of violence against our team members are not tolerated by American Airlines,” the airline said. “The individual involved in this incident will never be allowed to travel with us in the future, and we will work closely with law enforcement in their investigation.”
“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 continued, according to CNN. “Our thoughts are with our injured flight attendant, and we are ensuring that they and their fellow crew members have the support they need at this time.”
Jelani Lindsey, the Office of the Federal Public Defender’s attorney who is representing Le, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on his arrest, The New York Times reported.
Watch the incident unfold in the video below. Warning – Graphic Content:
An American Airlines passenger punched a flight attendant in the head after passengers say he was told not to use the first class bathroom. Alex Tung Cuu Le was taken into FBI custody and faces up to 20 years in prison. American says he’s now banned for life. pic.twitter.com/4co74wWTOc— Sam Sweeney (@SweeneyABC) September 22, 2022