Delta Air Lines first class brawl: Desperate passengers smash bottles on man

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The aftermath of a cabin on Delta Flight 129 from Seattle to Beijing. Photo / AP

A Delta Air Lines flight bound for Beijing returned to Seattle on Thursday after a first-class passenger assaulted a flight attendant and tried to open the emergency exit door before he was subdued by other travelers who hit him over the head with wine bottles.

The flight attendant and another passenger were injured in the violent scuffle and taken to the hospital after landing back at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The unruly passenger was also injured but declined medical attention.

A 23-year-old male passenger from Florida, who has not been named, was arrested by Port of Seattle Police Department officers, airport spokesman Perry Cooper said.

Delta flight 129 departed Seattle-Tacoma International Airport at around 5.07pm, but headed back to Seattle roughly 45 minutes into the flight, Cooper said.

One passenger, who did not want to be identified, told KIRO 7 that a group of people broke two bottles of wine over the man's head in an attempt to stop him.

The anonymous passenger said that the man had been going back and forth to the bathroom, when he started heading to the emergency exit latch, saying that he 'needed air".

A flight attendant tried to stop him and got punched, and that's when other passengers came to the attendant's aid.

"They broke two bottles of wine on his head,"the passenger said. "I tried to choke him and he just threw me off like a rag doll."

Passenger Dustin Jones heard the scuffle unfold from the first row of the main cabin, just behind the curtain that separates first class from the rest of the plane.

"One of the flight attendants ran back and said there was a Code 3. There was a serious fight up front," Jones said.

The fight was so violent, that passenger Britteny Gardner said she saw "somebody that was working" with "blood on their shirt".

Eventually, the flight was ordered to turn around and another passenger sat on the man in question until they landed safely back in Seattle just after 7pm and police could take him into custody.

Original reports stated that the plane was escorted back to Seattle by military jets, but a Delta spokesman says those reports were inaccurate.

Even as he was being led out of the airport, ziptied to a wheelchair, passenger Jones said the man continued to fight.

"He started yelling for help. And so he turned the wheelchair over in the middle of the airport, screaming for people to help him, just being belligerent," Jones said.

After landing back at Seattle, the flight was rescheduled and took off again at 12:07am Friday morning - nearly seven hours after the original departure time.

But passenger Glen Wang said his fellow passengers took the unexpected layover in stride.

"No commotion, and the whole flight was really quiet, very nice, and everything's in order. Actually, I think we did a good job," Wang said.

Cooper, the airport spokesman, said the man assaulted a flight attendant in the first-class cabin, and said the incident was not a national security matter.

Cooper said multiple passengers intervened to help subdue the suspect during the in-flight disturbance. The pilot decided to turn back and call for police, fire, and medical personnel to meet the plane.

Delta said in a statement: "The passenger was restrained on board and was removed from the flight by law enforcement without further incident."

The Federal Bureau of Investigation was assisting police with the investigation, said FBI spokeswoman Ayn Dietrich.

Dietrich said the FBI was interviewing passengers and had no information to suggest the incident was a threat to national security.

Lorie Dankers, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration, said there was no security breach at the airport, south of Seattle.

Delta spokeswoman Liz Savadelis said by e-mail that the passenger was restrained onboard and then removed from the flight by law enforcement without further incident after the plane landed in Seattle.

The Federal Aviation Administration declined to comment.