Passenger tries to punch flight attendant and jump out of emergency exit: ‘Why are you smiling at me?’

Traveller was said to be slurring his words when approached by staff

Benjamin Parker
Saturday 06 May 2023 11:08 BST
Passenger punches United Airlines employee on flight to Houston

A passenger had to be held back by fellow travellers after he appeared to attack a flight attendant and attempt to jump from the plane.

In a video taken on board a United Airlines flight, the man can be seen attempting to hit the member of cabin crew, before managing to force open the aircraft’s emergency exit.

The footage was shot by Naya Jimenez shortly before the plane took off from San Francisco International Airport, bound for Houston, Texas, just after midnight on 1 May.

Ms Jimenez told ABC News that the passenger was angry because she asked his wife, and then him, to move out of her assigned seat.

She said: “They had to bring in a gate attendant to try to talk to both of them. Then, he began slurring his speech a little bit, like, ‘Sir, why are you smiling at me?’. That’s the first thing he said.”

A person can be heard in the clip saying “you’re in my space right now” before the first punch is thrown.

But according to Ms Jimenez, after the man was briefly restrained, he attempted to jump off the plane.

“After he paused for a minute, he ran toward where the pilot was, where the emergency exit doors are, and attempted to open it. [He] successfully opened the emergency exit and was about to jump down,” she said.

“The plane is elevated, so he would have jumped apparently two stories to the ground, and the flight attendants just kicked in, and everybody pulled him back to safety.”

A United Airlines spokesperson told The Independent: “On Sunday night, our team at San Francisco International Airport immediately contacted law enforcement after a disruptive customer assaulted one of our customer service employees during boarding. This customer’s behavior was unacceptable, he has been banned from future United flights and we are working with local law enforcement in their investigation.

“We’re grateful to our team for their professionalism and for looking out for the safety of our customers and their fellow United employees.”

ABC News report that a 47-year-old man was arrested by San Francisco police on battery charges related to this incident.

The Independent has contacted United Airlines for additional comment.

This isn’t the only recent example of erratic behaviour on planes.

At the end of April, a United Airlines flight was forced to turn back after spending three hours in the air when a passenger got into an argument with a flight attendant and refused to get out of a crew seat.

And last month a man travelling on an American Airlines flight from New York to Delhi was arrested after allegedly urinating on a co-passenger during an argument.

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