California man charged with assaulting American Airlines flight attendant

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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.”

“After a flight attendant, who was working in a different cabin, bumped this passenger, we're told, she then walked into one of the flight galleys and this passenger approached her and punched her in the face at least twice,” Paul Hartshorn Jr., with the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, told CBS Los Angeles after the incident. “That's what we know right now and she sustained broken bones in her nose and her face.”

The flight attendant was taken to a local hospital after the flight was diverted and headed back to New York that same day, according to the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, the union representing American Airlines' flight attendants.

Hsu is expected to make an initial appearance in court Monday, the Department of Justice said.

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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