Alexander Tung Cuu Le is a California man accused of punching an American Airlines flight attendant on a plane headed from Cabo to LAX in an incident caught on video, prosecutors say. The video was shared on social media on September 22, 2022. Le was arrested that same day on federal charges, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said in a press release.
“An Orange County man was charged today in a federal criminal complaint that alleges he punched a flight attendant in the back of the head during a flight from Mexico to Los Angeles – an assault that a fellow passenger recorded on video,” the press release stated. “Alexander Tung Cuu Le, 33, of Westminster, is charged with one count of interference with flight crew members and attendants, a crime that carries a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison. Le is expected to make his initial appearance this afternoon in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles.”
Saad Mohseni, who shared the video on Twitter, wrote in his tweet that accompanied the footage, “Violence in the air: a friend was travelling from Cabo to LAX, when a passenger hit a flight attendant for not letting use him the first class bathroom. He was later restrained by other passengers and arrested upon touchdown.”
A Flight Attendant Told Investigators She Was Left ‘Shaking’ & the Incident Was ‘the Longest Hour & 58 Minutes of My Life’
According to the criminal complaint, the incident occurred on September 21, 2022, on Ameerican Airlines flight 377, which was headed from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, to Los Angeles, California. Alexander Le was arrested at LAX, according to prosecutors. The complaint states, “The crew of AA 377 had to focus on restraining Le, which interfered with their duties and reduced their ability to provide service to over 100 passengers.”
An FBI agent said in the complaint that about 20 minutes after takeoff two flight attendants began “conducting food and beverage service.” Witnesses told the FBI agents Le then exited his seat, 17A, and grabbed one of the flight attendants by the left shoulder from behind and asked for coffee. According to the complaint, the flight attendant asked Le to wait. “Moments later, Le grabbed” the flight attendant’s “shoulders from behind.” The flight attendant “stepped back and put one hand up in a defensive posture. Le then walked toward the front of the plane,” the complaint states.
The complaint states, “Le was loitering near the first-class cabin and then sat in an unoccupied aisle seat near the bulkhead, which was the wall dividing the first-class cabin and the main cabin.” One of the flight attendants approached Le to “discuss his loitering near the first-class cabin,” and asked him to return to his seat,” according to the complaint. Witnesses told investigators Le then stood up and “assumed a fighting stance” toward the attendant and swung his arm at him, missing, the complaint states. The flight attendant then decided to report Le to the pilot and walekd toward the front of the plane, according to the complaint.
Witnesses told the FBI that Le then “rushed towards” the flight attendant and punched him in the back of the head, a moment that was caught on video, according to the complaint. Le then fled to the back of the plane and was restrained with flex cuffs, according to the complaint. His legs and hands were cuffed, the FBI said. He was also restrained with seatbelt extenders, according to the complaint. The flight attendant who was punched said he spent the rest of the flight icing the back of his head in the galley of the plane, according to the complaint.
Another flight attendant was “shaking so much that she had difficulty performing her duties,” and a told the FBI the flight was “the longest hour and 58 minutes of my life,” according to the complaint. The injured flight attendant was hospitalized as a result of the attack, according to the complaint.
American Airlines Says the Passenger Has Been Banned From Flying With Their Company, While the FAA Says They’ve Investigated 680 Unruly Passenger Reports in 2022
In a statement, the airline said, “American Airlines flight 377 with service from San José del Cabo (SJD) to Los Angeles (LAX) was met by law enforcement upon arrival due to an unruly passenger who physically assaulted a flight attendant. The aircraft landed safely and taxied to the gate where law enforcement removed the individual.”
American Airlines added, “Acts of violence against our team members are not tolerated by American Airlines. The individual involved in this incident will never be allowed to travel with us in the future, and we will work closely with law enforcement in their investigation. We thank our crew for their quick action and professionalism to ensure the safety of their fellow team members and customers on board. Our thoughts are with our injured flight attendant, and we are ensuring that they and their fellow crew members have the support they need at this time.”
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, as of September 20, 2022, there have been 1,973 reports of unruly passengers in the United States this year, with 680 investigations launched and 468 enforcement cases initiated. There have been two incidents per 10,000 flights as of this September, the FAA said in its unruly passengers report. In 2019, there were 146 investigations initiated into reports of unruly behavior by passengers. That jumped to 1,099 in 2021. The previous high since 1995 was 310 in 2004, according to the FAA.
Association of Flight Attendants-CWA President Sara Nelon said in a statement, “It’s an incredibly hard day for Flight Attendants to go to work. But all over the country they are doing it. They are doing it even in the most persistently dangerous time for their personal safety – not only because they are brave, but because they are committed to bringing people together. Many people would like us to believe we are divided and many will say today, ‘What is wrong with people?’ There must be swift and clear consequences for violent acts, but there must also be leadership that asks, ‘What is the right thing to do and demonstrate?’”
Nelson added, “We see kindness everyday on our planes and it makes a difference. All over this country Flight Attendants have a message for the traveling public and the communities where we live and work: be kind, recognize good, thank a worker in airports, grocery and retail stores, bakeries, factories, construction, schools, hospitals, farms, fields, restaurants, in the post office and out on deliveries. Americans crave solidarity and everyone needs a little help. This is your Flight Attendant speaking: be a helper. We all need a little help to heal and enjoy this flight.”