An American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Washington, DC, made a rapid emergency landing in Kansas City, Mo., on Sunday afternoon after an unruly passenger tried to break into the cockpit and then attempted to open an exit door, witnesses said.
The passenger was subdued by crew members and other passengers. He was taken into custody after the flight landed.
In a statement, American Airlines said the flight, American Airlines Flight 1775, landed safely in Kansas City, where law enforcement officials met the plane.
The crew members “handled the circumstances with the utmost skill and professionalism,” the statement said.
The airline did not respond to questions about the passenger’s actions. Stacy Day, a spokeswoman for the airline, said that the passenger was “ultimately subdued by our crew and with the help of other passengers.”
Mouaz Moustafa, a passenger from Washington, described a chaotic scene as the plane started descending into Kansas City without warning after the struggle with the passenger.
He said the man tried to get into the cockpit and then tried to exit via the main door before he was held down by several passengers.
“A flight attendant ran to the back of the plane and got the coffee pot and continues to bash the guy on the head,” Mr. Moustafa said in an interview as the plane was being held on the tarmac. The man was “bleeding profusely,” he added.
“I honestly thought today I might die,” he said.
as mr. Moustafa, 37, was being interviewed by phone from his seat, the pilot came by and talked to the passengers about how the man had tried and failed to open the cockpit door.
Karen Maria Alston, who lives in Washington, said she was sitting in the 17th row of the plane watching the movie “Dune” when she saw some men rush into the first-class section, where an altercation was occurring. She was not able to see what was happening, she said, but the commotion and ensuing plane descent were frightening and “extremely stressful.”
“I need a drink and I am so thankful,” Ms. Alston said in a text message after the plane landed in Kansas City.
She said that passengers waited on the plane as the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted interviews with witnesses. ms. Alston said she was unsure how and when she would return home.
ms. Day said that the airline was working closely with law enforcement and that it was “working to help our customers continue their journeys on another flight later this evening.
The Kansas City Police Department referred questions to the airport police. An airport spokesman referred questions to American Airlines and the FBI
Charles A. Dayoub, an FBI special agent in charge in Kansas City, said in a statement released on social media that the passenger was taken into custody after “interfering with the flight crew.”
Disturbances on flights have surged during the coronavirus pandemic, and many of the incidents have involved passengers who disagree with mask mandates.
Last year, the Federal Aviation Administration conducted more than 1,000 investigations of unruly passengers — more than in the previous seven years combined.