A United Airlines flight from Los Angeles, California to Tokyo’s Narita Airport, had to divert to Anchorage, Alaska, last Sunday after a drunken male passenger threatened to kill a flight attendant. This is just one more occurrence in a list of air rage incidents where the bad behavior of one passenger not only spoils the flight for all onboard but also puts the aircraft at risk.
According to documents filed in an Anchorage court, United Airlines flight UA32 was en route to Tokyo’s Narita Airport in Japan when a 51-year-old passenger by the name of Seksan Kumtong started behaving erratically.
The passenger started shouting and banging on toilet doors
In what appeared to be an attempt to get into one of the aircraft’s toilets, Kumtong started shouting and banging on the occupied toilet doors. One of the flight attendants intervened to guide Kumtong to an unoccupied lavatory when he tried to shove the crew member but missed. After he returned to his seat and consumed another drink, the decision was made to cut him off, meaning no more alcoholic beverages for the remainder of the flight.
Now back in his seat and apparently calm, Kumtong fell asleep for a while, before waking up and demanding another drink. When he was told that he would not be served, he started yelling at the flight attendant. This flight attendant then called the senior cabin crew member on the plane to help.
Passenger strikes the lead flight attendant in the face
The lead flight attendant told Kumtong that he needed to slow down on the drinks and behave. It was at this point, according to the court documents, that Kumtong became physically aggressive. According to court papers seen by the Anchorage Daily News, Kumtong struck the flight attendant in the face and then grabbed the flight attendants’ tie in an attempt to force them to the ground. While the scuffle was taking place, court papers say Kumtong was yelling obscenities while also saying “I will kill you.”
Other passengers quickly managed to pull Kumtong away and restrain him in his seat until the plane could land. Following the incident, the captain decided to divert to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC), where Kumtong was met by members of law enforcement. The main agency involved, the FBI, charged him with breaking federal law by interfering with the flight’s crew.
The passenger remains in federal custody awaiting trial
According to Dave Schulling, deputy chief of the Anchorage Airport Police and Fire Department, the aircraft crew and passengers were put up in a hotel for the night. Passengers and crew continued their journey to Japan the following day.
Meanwhile, Kumtong is still in federal custody at the Anchorage Correctional Center awaiting trial. When appearing for a preliminary hearing on Wednesday, Kumtong’s public defender asked for more time so that a translator could be found. No mention was made in the court documents as to Kumtong’s nationality or which language he spoke.
A hearing is now scheduled for next Tuesday the 11th of February at 1:30 p.m.
Following the incident, United Airlines issued a statement carried by The Independent, which read:
“The safety and security of our employees and customers is our top priority. On Sunday, United flight 32 traveling from Los Angeles to Tokyo Narita diverted to Anchorage due to a disruptive customer…The flight landed safely and was met by local officials. The customer was removed and we worked to get customers on their way as soon as possible.”
What do you think should be the penalty and consequence for the drunken passenger? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.