Delta Air Lines

Unruly Passenger on a Chaotic Delta Flight From LA to Atlanta Identified as Off-Duty Flight Attendant

A voice on the plane's public address system can be heard requesting help from passengers in video of the mid-air struggle.

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A Delta Air Lines flight from Los Angeles to Atlanta was diverted to Oklahoma City Friday night due to an unruly passenger who was subdued following an urgent request for help on the plane's public address system.

On Saturday, a Delta Air Lines spokesperson confirmed that individual was an off-duty flight attendant. Video shows passengers apparently holding the person down in the aisle.

Some passengers speculated that the man attempted to open a plane door. However, a Delta spokesperson told NBCLA that was not the case.

"The passenger was not trying to open the door mid-flight, rather the incident/altercation occurred in the front of the plane near that area."

Plane doors are impossible to open at cruising altitude due to cabin pressure. 

Members of the flight crew can be seen trying to subdue the passenger on the plane bound for Atlanta. Robert Kovacik reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Friday June 11, 2021.

In video of the altercation, a voice over the plane’s public address system can be heard requesting help. 

“This is the captain speaking. We’d like all strong males to come to the front of the aircraft to handle a problem passenger.”

FBI spokeswoman Megan Lauro would only say the FBI was investigating the incident.

The video does not show what happened prior to the passenger being restrained. The person had at least tried to access the plane's PA system before being confronted by passengers, a Delta spokesperson said.

Passenger Brannon Nazarian described the mid-air chaos.

“The next thing I knew, there were people rushing up the to the front, and he started shoving people, and there was this outrageous fight,” Nazarian said during the unscheduled stop in Oklahoma City. “He was fighting them back extremely hard. His feet were flying in the air. The flight attendant was — it looked like he had a concussion.”

The plane was met by law enforcement officers in Oklahoma City, according to Delta. It was not immediately clear whether the passenger was arrested. 

The plane then continued to Atlanta.

The Federal Aviation Administration has warned air travelers about what it describes as a dramatic increase in unruly or dangerous behavior aboard passenger airplanes.

In a typical year, the transportation agency sees 100 to 150 formal cases of bad passenger behavior. But since the start of this year through early May, the agency said the number of cases has jumped to 1,300, an even more remarkable number since the number of passengers remained below pre-pandemic levels.

An unruly airplane passenger may be fined around $52,000 for not following the rules. Lolita Lopez reports for NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on May 17, 2021.

Earlier in June, a man accused of trying to break into the cockpit of a Delta flight from Los Angeles to Nashville, causing its diversion last Friday to Albuquerque, New Mexico, was ordered to remain in custody pending further hearings. A criminal complaint submitted by an FBI agent said the passenger during the flight pounded on the cockpit door and said “we need to land this plane" before he was restrained by a flight attendant and passengers and then carried to the rear of the plane.

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