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Passenger's Shocking Attack on Flight Attendant Prompts Calls for FAA to Act

SAN JOSE (KPIX) -- The CEO of American Airlines called a recent attack on a flight attendant "one of the worst displays of unruly behavior we've ever witnessed."

Now the Association of Professional Flight Attendants is calling for the Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Transportation to prosecute violators and ban them from every airline.

"We need passengers to feel safe onboard an aircraft whether that is with the virus or whether that is knowing it's going to be safe and they're not going to be attacked or witness an attack that puts the airplane in jeopardy at 35,000 feet," said the association's spokesperson Paul Hartshorn Jr.

On Wednesday, witnesses on board the American Airlines flight from JFK Airport to John Wayne Airport in Orange County said a passenger punched a flight attendant twice in the face. The assault, Hartshorn Jr. said, left the woman with broken bones in her nose and face.

He said the flight attendant bumped the passenger before the male suspect got out of his seat and approached her in the galley.

A witness said the flight attendant had blood on the outside of her mask.

The flight was diverted to Denver where authorities removed the passenger from the plane and took him into custody. Cellphone video captured passengers booing the suspect.

It's the latest attack against a flight attendant in a disturbing trend of physical assaults in the air.

In just the first eight months of 2021, the FAA issued more than $1 million in fines to unruly passengers. Meanwhile, the Association of Flight Attendants found 85% of 5,000 flight attendants surveyed this summer reported they had dealt with misbehaving passengers so far this year.

In July, Frontier flight attendants duct-taped a passenger after he allegedly groped two of them.

A Southwest Airlines passenger was charged with two felonies recently after punching a flight attendant. Investigators said the passenger refused to put on her mask and put her tray back into place when repeatedly asked by the flight attendant.

"I think it's sad, I think they're doing the best that they can," said Alexis Collins who had just flown into San Jose Mineta International Airport Thursday evening. "It's a hard situation for everyone. I think we need to work together during this time."

Rose Huza, also arriving in San Jose, said she feels flight attendants have a "tough job."

"People just need to chill out and be kind," Huza said. "Kind is the most important thing right now."

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