Off-Duty Flight Attendant Is Detained After an In-Flight Struggle, Delta Says


An off-duty flight attendant took control of the public address system and then fought with passengers and crew members on board a Delta Air Lines flight on Friday in the latest outburst of violent behavior by airline passengers, the airline said.

Delta said that Flight 1730, which had been headed to Atlanta from Los Angeles, landed in Oklahoma City after the off-duty flight attendant grabbed the public address system and made an announcement about oxygen masks, setting off a struggle with passengers and crew members who subdued him.

Video from the flight showed a violent confrontation near the front of the plane involving several people who wrestled the man to the floor, while someone said: “Get him down. Keep him down.”


“The aircraft landed without incident and the passenger was removed by law enforcement,” Delta said in a statement. “We apologize to our customers for the delay and any additional inconvenience this caused.”

The Oklahoma City police said they had removed a man from the plane and had taken him to a hospital, where he was released into the custody of the F.B.I.

Megan Lauro, a spokeswoman for the F.B.I.’s Oklahoma City field office, confirmed on Saturday that the agency was investigating. She said the man was in jail and being interviewed. She declined to comment on possible charges.

Benjamin Curlee, 29, said he had been seated about four or five rows from the back of the plane, which was about two hours away from Atlanta, when a voice came over the intercom and told everyone to take their seats and prepare to put on oxygen masks.

“That made everyone extremely tense, but they started complying,” Mr. Curlee, who described the ordeal on TikTok, said in an interview on Saturday.


Only later, after the plane had landed, did he learn from other passengers that it was the man who had fought with passengers and crew members who had made the announcement about oxygen masks.

After a “very long two minutes,” Mr. Curlee said, the captain came on the public address system and asked “all able-bodied men” to come to the front of the plane for an “emergency.”


About half the passengers jumped up, according to Mr. Curlee, who said he was about halfway to the front of the cabin when the flight attendants told everyone to return to their seats because the situation was under control.

The episode came amid what the Federal Aviation Administration has described as a “significant increase” in disruptive behavior on flights starting in late 2020.

The F.A.A. said that since Jan. 1, it had received about 2,900 reports of unruly behavior by passengers, including about 2,200 reports of passengers refusing to comply with a federal mandate that they wear masks.


Last month, two major airlines, American and Southwest, postponed plans to resume serving alcohol on flights in an effort to stop the violence and disorder.

Both airlines announced the policies after a widely watched video showed a woman punching a flight attendant in the face on a Southwest Airlines flight from Sacramento to San Diego on May 23.

The flight attendant lost two teeth in the assault, according to her union, and the passenger was charged with battery causing serious bodily injury. The passenger was also barred for life from flying Southwest, the airline said.

Late Thursday night, a Delta flight from Los Angeles to New York was diverted to Detroit after a passenger became unruly, CBS News reported.

Dana Jacobson, a co-host of “CBS This Morning: Saturday,” who had been on the flight, said on Twitter that another passenger had told her that a “drunk passenger in the back of the plane” had been “out of control drinking from a bottle.”


Steve Dickson, the F.A.A. administrator, said in a videotaped statement that the agency has a “zero-tolerance policy” for passengers who cause disturbances on flights or fail to obey instructions from the flight crew.

Passengers, regardless of their vaccination status, must wear masks on planes and in airports, he said.

“But this isn’t just about face masks,” Mr. Dickson said. “We’ve seen incidents related to alcohol, violence toward flight attendants and abusive behavior in general.”

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