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California man charged with assaulting American Airlines flight attendant

Flight diverted after passenger hits attendant
Flight diverted after passenger attacks attendant 02:07

A California man is facing criminal charges stemming from the violent assault of an American Airlines flight attendant last week. Brian Hsu, 20, has been charged with interference with a flight crew and assault within the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, authorities announced Monday.

The flight from New York to Orange County, California, was diverted to Denver after the alleged assault, which American Airlines CEO Doug Parker called "one of the worst displays of unruly behavior we've ever witnessed."

The flight attendant told authorities Hsu struck her in the galley while he was trying to get to the bathroom, but when she informed him the seat belt light was on and he'd have to wait at his seat, he brought his elbow down on her head, then charged at her and hit her in the face, according to court documents released Monday. 

The documents state the flight attendant, who had told witnesses she feared her nose was broken, was taken to a local hospital after the flight was diverted. Doctors said she had a concussion and advised her to get another CAT scan to determine if her nose was broken. She headed back to New York that same day, according to the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, the union representing American Airlines' flight attendants.

Hsu was expected to make an initial appearance in court Monday, the Department of Justice said. He told investigators he had recently had brain surgery and was defending himself from the flight attendant, who became agitated and swung her hands at him after he accidentally bumped her, according to court documents

Parker had called for "aggressive criminal prosecution" following the incident. He said the airlines would not tolerate airport or inflight misconduct of any kind. "As for this individual, I can guarantee you he will never be allowed to fly American Airlines again. But that is not enough — this type of behavior has to stop," Parker said.

The assault is part of an uptick in incidents of unruly behavior on airplanes. U.S. airlines had banned more than 4,000 people as of May. As of September, the Federal Aviation Administration had initiated 789 investigations into passengers in 2021, a sharp spike from the 183 investigations it initiated in all of 2020.

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