American Airlines jet delayed by 'altercation'
DALLAS (AP) — Passengers on American Airlines Flight 2332 were settling in for a trip to Chicago on Friday when they say a flight attendant took over the public-address system and launched into a rant that included references to 9-11 and the safety of their plane.
At first puzzled, then frightened, several passengers wrestled the flight attendant into a seat while the plane was still on the ground at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
The pilot returned the plane to the gate, where it was met by airport police and the FBI. After a delay of more than an hour, the plane finally took off.
A federal law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was continuing said that airport police determined the incident was a medical issue and not a security threat.
The official said the flight attendant was taken to Parkland Hospital in Dallas for evaluation. American said two crew members went to hospitals after the incident.
Bethany Christakos of Dallas, seated toward the rear of the plane, said passengers started "freaking out" as one of the flight attendants launched into a rambling, 15-minute speech.
"She said, 'I'm not responsible for this plane crashing,'" Christakos said.
Another passenger, Stephen Tremunde, said, "We were pretty frightened. She made two comments that if we didn't go back to the gate we would crash."
"The last thing I heard her say before someone pulled the mic out of her hand was, 'Hey pilot, I'm not going to be responsible for your crash,'" said Greg Lozano of Elmhurst, Ill.
Brad LeClear of Fox Lake, Ill., said he was one of several passengers who restrained the flight attendant. She said something about 9-11 — that she wished she could have stopped the terror attacks that used hijacked jetliners, he said.
"She mentioned being bipolar, and I asked her if she had taken her medicine, and she said, no," he said.
LeClear said he felt sorry for the flight attendant, but was glad to land safely in Chicago. If an incident like that happened in flight, he said, "She could have opened the door and done something to jeopardize the safety of all the passengers."
Other passengers stood at their seats to see what was happening in the front of the economy-class section. Some called 911.
In a passenger's video obtained by The Associated Press, a woman can be heard sobbing while another woman reassures her, "It's OK ... thank goodness we're on the ground."
The pilot radioed air traffic controllers for permission to return to the gate and to be met by airport police.
American Airlines spokesman Ed Martelle confirmed that "an incident occurred involving some of the cabin crew," and that two flight attendants were taken to local hospitals for treatment. He declined to provide their names or information about their injuries or conditions.
Martelle said the cabin crew was replaced before the plane took off for Chicago's O'Hare Airport behind schedule. He said customers were not in danger at any time.
A spokesman for DFW Airport said no state criminal charges were being considered.
FBI spokeswoman Lydia Maese said agents responded as they routinely do when there is a report of a possible crime on a jetliner, but they decided that there was no need to investigate further.
Airline industry officials said incidents such as Friday's are extremely rare. A JetBlue Airways flight attendant, Steven Slater, made a flamboyant exit from his job in 2010 when he took over the PA system, cursed a passenger, snatched a beer, pulled the emergency chute and slid to the tarmac. Slater said he cracked under the pressure of health and family problems.
The Federal Aviation Administration requires pilots to pass medical and psychological tests, but it doesn't require the same for flight attendants. American declined to say whether it screens applicants for mental health.
Johnson reported from Chicago.