LOS ANGELES (CNS) - An Orange County man caught on video punching a flight attendant in the back of the head during a flight from Mexico to Los Angeles International Airport is scheduled to make his initial court appearance Monday on a federal charge of interfering with flight crew members and attendants.
Alexander Tung Cuu Le, 33, of Westminster, was arrested Wednesday when American Airlines flight 377 from San José del Cabo, Mexico, landed at LAX.
Le was caught on cell phone video taken by a passenger slugging a flight attendant in the back of the head during the flight. He was detained by the flight crew and other passengers and bound in a seat.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Le initially put his hands on a flight attendant who was conducting beverage service and asked for coffee, then walked toward the front of the plane when that attendant "put up a defensive posture."
Le then loitered near the first-class seating area and sat in an aisle until another flight attendant asked him to return to his seat, prosecutors said. Le allegedly clenched his fists, assumed a fighting posture and swung his arm toward the flight attendant, who turned his back and walked toward the front of the plane to report the passenger's actions, according to prosecutors.
At that point, Le quickly approached the flight attendant from behind and punched him once in the back of the head -- an assault that was caught by a passenger on cell phone video.
Le began retreating toward the back of the plane but was detained. The flight attendant was not seriously injured.
Le had been expected to make an initial court appearance Thursday afternoon in federal court in downtown Los Angeles, but the hearing was reset for Monday morning. The federal charge he is facing carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
American Airlines issued a statement Thursday saying Le has been permanently banned from future American flights.
"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," according to the airline.
"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."
The FBI is investigating the attack.
The Federal Aviation Administration has logged 5,981 "unruly passenger reports" from airlines in 2021.