Flight attendant smashes unruly passenger over the head with coffee pot

In this Wednesday, March 25, 2020, file photo, American Airlines jets sit idly at their gates as a jet arrives at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix. Matt York / The Associated Press

An unruly passenger who tried to force his way into the cockpit of an American Airlines flight Sunday was finally subdued when a quick-thinking flight attendant smashed him over the head with a coffee pot.

According to a release from the FBI, Juan Remberto Rivas, 50, was on a flight from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., when he started “displaying erratic behaviour” and began threatening flight attendants.

The report said he made his way to the front of the plane and grabbed a plastic knife, holding it “like a shank” in his shirt sleeve.

He then “grabbed a small champagne bottle by the neck of the bottle and attempted to break the bottle on the counter. He began kicking and shoving the service cart into one of the flight attendants,” the report continues. (An airline service cart can weigh more than 100 lbs. when fully loaded.)

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Rivas then allegedly tried to pry open the exit door at the front of the plane, using his foot and both hands to try to remove the door.

That’s when one of the flight attendants grabbed a coffee pot and hit Rivas over the head, twice.

Several passengers, including an off-duty police officer, quickly came to the crew’s aid — one punched Rivas in the jaw, while another pulled him down to the floor.

The group then used zip ties and duct tape to restrain his hands and feet.

The flight landed safely at the Kansas City International Airport, where the FBI was waiting. Rivas was charged with one count of assaulting and intimidating a flight attendant.

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In a statement, American Airlines said: “We’re grateful to our crew members, who are consistently dedicated to the safety and care of our customers and who handled the circumstances with the utmost skill and professionalism. We also appreciate the customers who stepped in to assist our crew.”

In a post to Twitter on Sunday, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants said “this violent behavior must stop,” and said it will continue to work with government and organizations to ensure those who disrupt flights are “prosecuted to the full extent of the law with appropriate fines, criminal penalties, and applicable flying bans.”

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Unruly passengers have become an increasing problem for flight crews in North America, and a noticeable spike has occurred since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released a report last year in its trade magazine, Airlines, that shows a significant increase in confrontations. It found that the rate of unruly passenger incidents doubled in 2020, and the trend continued into 2021.

In Canada, there were 1,594 incidents of passengers refusing to wear a mask in 2021. Of those, 108 passengers were asked to disembark flights, and at least 21 fines were handed out in that time.

A search of Transport Canada’s Civil Aviation Daily Occurrence Reporting System also shows passenger incidents range from vaping on board to pretending to sneeze on fellow passengers to physically assaulting airline crew.

Late last month, Abbottsford police removed two “unruly” passengers from a flight originating in Toronto when they refused to put on masks.

And earlier this year, a group of Quebec reality TV stars and influencers made international headlines when they boarded a chartered plane for Mexico and ignored all COVID-19 safety protocol, instead choosing to dance, party, use vape pens and drink liquor while out of their seats.

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Click to play video: 'Tension in the air: Cases of unruly airline passengers soaring'
Tension in the air: Cases of unruly airline passengers soaring

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