The off-duty flight attendant who disrupted a Delta Air Lines flight and attacked his colleagues faces the prospect of spending the next 20 years in federal prison, as well as a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release after he was charged with one count of interference with flight crew members and attendants.
Stephon Jamar Duncan of Georgia, Atlanta is accused of forcing Delta flight DL1730 from Los Angeles to Atlanta to divert to Oklahoma on Friday night after he attempted to open a plane door mid-flight and made terroristic threats against the flight.
Cell phone video taken by other passengers on the flight appears to show Duncan attacking working flight attendants and resisting other passengers who were trying to get him away from the aircraft door and flight deck.
One flight attendant screams “HELP” as Duncan appears to fight crew members, while the Captain made an urgent plea over the public address system for other passengers to come to the front of the aircraft and help restrain Duncan.
On Tuesday, Delta chief executive Ed Bastian told ABC News that the safety of crew and passengers was “of paramount concern” over Friday night’s incident.
“I’ve got to tell you that our crew onboard that flight handled the situation professionally,” Bastian said. “They managed it well, resolved it quickly, safely. At no point was that aircraft ever in danger,” he continued.
Bastian described the incident as an “unfortunate” and “sad situation”.
“Our crews are professionally trained to resolve situations like this. We have been dealing with it all the last year for masks,” Bastian noted, although he claimed many of the issues arising were because of a “massive surge” in people returning to flying following the pandemic.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said earlier this week that it had received more than 3,000 unruly passenger reports since the start of this year – a huge increase on previous years. The vast majority of the reports related to face mask non-compliance issues.
Without commenting on the specifics of Delta flight DL1730, Bastian said: “The pandemic caused a lot of emotional well-being challenges for a lot of people”.