The heroic moment occurred July 21 aboard an American Airlines flight from Lexington, Ky., to Charlotte, according to the Charlotte Observer.
The pilot — who has not been identified — was speaking to Michael Kerr, a slurring, belligerent passenger who was captured on cellphone video confronting the flight crew shortly after he’d downed three glasses of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey, the Observer reported.
According to an FBI affidavit cited by the paper, Kerr refused to sit down when crew members asked passengers to remain seated as the plane taxied to the gate after landing. Instead, the affidavit states, Kerr continued standing and threatened to break a flight attendant’s jaw.
Moments later, Kerr rushed to the front of the plane, where an ensuing altercation with the flight crew was caught on multiple cameras.
A spokesman for American Airlines declined to comment on the specifics of the incident but confirmed that the flight crew requested that law enforcement “meet them upon arrival at their gate” because of an unruly passenger.
Video shows the 25-year-old ignoring a pilot’s command to “take a seat, sir” and instead demanding that the man “move” out of his way.
“I don’t care what you want to do, you’re going to take a seat right now,” the pilot says.
“No, I’m not,” Kerr responds.
Kerr can be seen attempting to shove his way past a flight attendant, using his leg and upper body to press into her while she resists. When he succeeds moments later, shoving the woman to the floor and stumbling forward, Kerr is tackled by the pilot, who yells “sit down” as the two men fall along the aisle.
“Enough!” the pilot yells. “You don’t put your hands on my flight attendant! Enough!”
“I am completely relaxed and whatever you do is going on Facebook,” Kerr yells at the captain before calling the man a “loser” between a string of curse words. “Pull me up while you still have a chance to save face — even though you don’t!”
“You are online,” Kerr adds while the flight crew subdues him using a seat-belt strap, “even though you don’t want to accept it!”
Brian Colón, a 23-year-old Kentucky man who shot the video, told the Lexington Herald Leader that when Kerr shoved the attendant, the door of the plane was open, but the jet bridge wasn’t connected to the aircraft yet. Police arrived 15 to 20 minutes later, and Colón noted that officers repeatedly apologized to the other passengers for the inconvenience but that Kerr continued to fight back.
The Observer reported that he spat, yelled and kicked while being dragged off the flight.
“I was scared,” Colón told the paper. “I was very scared. I felt like the flight attendant’s life was in danger, and I felt like someone else needed to step in, the way he treated her.”
Kerr has been charged with being intoxicated and disruptive, assault on a female, communicating threats and interfering with the duties of a flight crew or attendant, according to the Observer.
He was released on $25,000 bond, the paper reported.
On Monday, a judge banned him from flying while he awaits trial, the Herald Leader reported. The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA released a statement highlighting the role of alcohol in “air-rage incidents.”
“We have seen an increase in these incidents throughout the industry,” the statement says. “The biggest frustration is delays and cancellations, and that has the added problem of people sitting at airports and going to a bar and drinking alcohol. Alcohol is a leading cause of air-rage incidents, as it seems to be in this case.”
Tanise Love, a friend of the flight attendant Kerr attacked, said her friend — whose name has not been released — has received support since the incident but has been forced to go to physical therapy multiple times a week to address neck and back pain suffered during the incident.
“She’s as angry as anyone would be, but she’s also very forgiving,” Love said, noting that her friend has been on the job for seven years. “I don’t think she’s so much focused on the assailant or his wrongdoing, she’s just focused on getting better.”