An American Airlines pilot is being praised after he tackled an unruly passenger and defended a flight attendant. The passenger, identified as 25-year-old Michael Kerr of Kentucky, has been banned from flying as he awaits trial and has since been released on a $25,000 (£18,756) bond.
The incident occurred on 21 July, 2016, aboard an American Airlines flight from Lexington, Kentucky to Charlotte, North Carolina. It began when Kerr, who had drank three drinks of Jack Daniel's Tennessee whiskey on board, refused to sit down or follow the instructions of flight crew, the Charlotte Observer reported on Monday 1 August.
An FBI affidavit revealed, Kerr remained standing and went on to threaten to break the jaw of a flight attendant who attempted to intervene. He then rushed to the front of the plane and an altercation between him and flight crew ensued.
A video, shot by 23-year-old Brian Colón, shows Kerr was asked by the plane's pilot to "take a seat, sir" which he ignored. Instead, he demanded the pilot "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. Kerr responds, "No, I'm not."
Kerr continued to try to reach the front exit, shoving the flight attendant as he attempted to move forward and finally, after getting through, pushed the female flight attendant to the floor and staggering forward. Kerr is then tackled by the pilot who again tells him to "sit down," the Washington Post noted.
"Enough!" the pilot yells. "You don't put your hands on my flight attendant! Enough!"
Kerr responds by cursing at the pilot and threatening him that his actions will wind up on social media. "I am completely relaxed and whatever you do is going on Facebook," Kerr yells back. "Pull me up while you still have a chance to save face—even though you don't!"
The Charlotte Observer reported the pilot, along with the co-pilot, restrained Kerr by using a belt strap to stop him from kicking. Kerr was detained by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officers as he spat, yelled and kicked.
Colón, a flight attendant for Norwegian Airlines, told the Lexington Herald Leader he had never witnessed an incident like this before. "I was scared. 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," he said.
According to Colón, it took between 15 to 20 minutes for the police to show up. "They had to hold him, solid, for like 15 minutes. They kept apologising the whole time to the passengers. And the guy kept fighting back," he added.
Kerr faces charges of being intoxicated and disruptive, assault on a female, communicating threats and interfering with a flight crew or attendant. He was arraigned in federal court on Monday (1 August). Kerr is banned from flying on commercial airlines and is prohibited from contacting the flight attendant he attacked.
The flight attendant's friend Tanise Love told the Charlotte Observer that the woman is grateful for the support she has received from co-workers, friends and strangers. The flight attendant is receiving physical therapy for neck and back pain.