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Delta flight diverted after drunken passenger assaults flight attendant, hurts air marshal, TSA says

A flight from D.C. to Los Angeles was diverted to Oklahoma City on Thursday night. A passenger was arrested.

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A drunken passenger on a Delta Air Lines flight Thursday night assaulted a flight attendant and hurt a federal air marshal who intervened, according to police and the Transportation Security Administration.

The flight was heading from Reagan National Airport in Washington to Los Angeles International Airport but was diverted to Oklahoma City’s Will Rogers World Airport.

The passenger, a 35-year-old man from the District, had been drinking and became disruptive, according to the TSA. The air marshal suffered minor injuries and did not need medical attention, the TSA said.

Gary Knight, a spokesman for the Oklahoma City Police Department, said the man was arrested when the plane landed and was charged with disorderly conduct and public drunkenness, both misdemeanors. He was released from jail, Knight said.

“Rising rates of unruly passengers is a disturbing trend that TSA and its industry and federal partners will not tolerate,” the TSA said in a statement. “These incidents needlessly interrupt travel, delaying flights and other transportation operations across the country. TSA, in coordination with our air carrier and airport management partners, as well as the FAA, will pursue criminal charges, and civil penalties up to the maximum allowable by law.”

Attorney general directs federal prosecutors to prioritize investigations into crimes on planes

Aviation authorities have been battling a wave of disruptive passengers, with alcohol and disputes over mask-wearing leading to confrontations. The FAA says it has received 5,553 reports of such incidents this year. Last month, Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a memo directing federal authorities to prioritize the prosecution of crimes on planes.

Flight attendants and crew members around the country are training in self-defense with federal air marshals. (Video: Monica Rodman/The Washington Post)

Knight said it would be up to the FBI to pursue felony charges against the man on Thursday’s flight. Efforts to reach the man and his lawyer Friday weren’t successful. The FBI office in Oklahoma City did not respond to a request for comment on the incident.

The flight continued to Los Angeles after the disruption.

The Biden administration recently extended a federal mask mandate for air travel and other forms of public transportation to March 18.