The woman’s companion stepped into the aisle to help her get off the plane, according to a police report obtained by NBC 4, and got sucker-punched for his trouble.
A few rows back, Michael Krause began recording the ensuing dispute, which his son shared on Twitter.
“I heard a noise,” the elder Krause told The Washington Post. He turned around and saw two men grappling in the aisle.
“One of the gentleman had the other pinned up against the overhead bin,” he said. “The fight ensued from there.”
Krause said he took a few steps toward the men, but was recovering from surgery for a broken hand. So he held up his phone and recorded as some other passengers began to flee the plane.
“The stewardess was cleaning at the front,” Krause said. “She’s running toward the fray, which I thought was heroic on her behalf.”
In Krause’s video, a latex-gloved flight attendant vainly tries to pull the men apart — joined in her effort by one, two, three and eventually four separate passengers.
“What is wrong with you? Get off!” a woman yells.
But it’s no good. The two men grapple through the aisle, where one gains the advantage and pushes the other down into a seat.
People fall like dominoes amid the punching.
Violence that police said left a man with a swollen eye and a chipped tooth is mostly hidden by a seat from Krause’s camera. But he described it:
“The taller guy gets his feet under him,” he said. “He flings, wrestles the shorter guy down, who fell on top of the lady, who fell on top of the flight attendant. And the tall guy just starts wailing on the shorter guy.”
It sounded like a microcosm of the huge brawl at a Fort Lauderdale airport terminal, in Florida, the same week, after Spirit Airlines cancellations prompted clashes, pushing, screaming and cursing, as The Washington Post reported.
It looked much like a fistfight on a plane in Tokyo a few days before that, with ended with an American man’s arrest. Last month, the lawyer for an immigrant dragged off a United Airlines flight said the deplaning had been more horrifying than his escape from Vietnam.
In Burbank, Krause said, the man on top of the dog pile seemed to realize enough was enough.
“The guy was strong,” he said, “he could have kept going if he’d wanted to.”
Instead, the man stood up with what looked like a blood streak on the back of his T-shirt, Krause said, and left the plane in peace.
Once Krause got off, he said, he saw the man talking to police officers.
One of the brawlers was jailed on a charge of battery, according to Burbank police, and another suffered what they said in a statement were “minor injuries.”
The airline tried to find a silver lining in dark skies.
“Our Employees are our everyday heroes and are trained to de-escalate conflict while delivering heartfelt Hospitality,” the statement read.
Back in California, Krause’s thoughts were with the flight attendant.
“She was the smallest one of all of them, and she was going in there,” he said. “Oh God, I hope she’s okay.”
This story has been updated.