The American Airlines passenger accused of assaulting a flight attendant in what AA chief executive Doug Parker has described as “one of the worst displays of unruly passenger behavior” ever witnessed at the airline was traveling home to California having just had brain surgery according to an FBI affidavit filed in federal court.
Brian Hsu of Irving, California faces a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment and a $200,000 fine after he was charged by prosecutors on Monday with assault and interference with a crew member following the October 27 incident.
The 20-year-old suspect told FBI investigators shortly after the incident onboard American Airlines flight AA976 from New York JFK and Santa Ana, California that he was traveling home having just had brain surgery in Rhode Island in order to reconstruct portions of his skull.
Hsu told investigators that he was badly injured during a brutal assault in New York City in fall 2020 which has left him with psychological damage and suffering from “mental fog”. His mother, who was traveling with him, told the FBI that her son becomes more “easily angered” than before the assault.
During the flight, Hsu says he got up to use the lavatory and was stretching in the aisle when he accidentally bumped the flight attendant. He claims the flight attendant “became agitated” and began swinging her arms at his head.
Hsu said in an initial interview that he became scared she would hit his head so he raised his hand defensively but the victim charged at him and her nose hit his palm.
The flight attendant suffered a broken nose and had to be admitted for overnight observations.
One independent witness claims Hsu punched the flight attendant in the face after she asked him to stay away from a lavatory. The force of the punch was so strong that the flight attendant hit the lavatory door.
The flight attendant recounted talking to another flight attendant when she felt something strike her head. She turned around and saw Hsu and asked if he was alright but instead of apologizing for hitting her, he stated that he needed to use the bathroom.
The flight attendant told him the lavatory was occupied and that the fasten seat belts signs were on so he should return to his seat.
At this point, Hsu allegedly started to stretch his arms but then brought his elbow down, striking the flight attendant. In response, the flight attendant brought her hands up in a defensive stance. Hsu allegedly charged at her twice and on the second occasion, struck her in the face with a closed fist.
The flight attendant stumbled into the First Class cabin where the lead crew member blockaded the aisle with a drinks cart.
A group of flight attendants and ‘able bodied’ passengers restrained Hsu – initially with duct tape and then plasticuffs – while the aircraft diverted to Denver.
The flight attendant had to be taken to the hospital where doctors told her she was suffering from a concussion.
Doug Parker told AA staffers in an internal memo shortly after the incident that Hsu will be permanently banned from flying with the airline, he would “not be satisfied until he has been prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
“This behavior must stop and aggressive enforcement and prosecution of the law is the best deterrent,” Parker continued.
“Our thoughts are with our injured flight attendant and ensuring that she and her fellow crew members have the support they need at this time.”
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.