An unruly passenger on an American Airlines flight to Miami was restrained by up to four of his seatmates who attempted to duct tape his mouth as he screamed out in Spanish during the eight-hour flight from Rio de Janeiro on Friday night.
Video obtained by Local 10 News shows the unruly passenger being restrained on the floor of a galley by a group of men, including one who appears to be an American Airlines flight attendant.
The suspect is heard screaming throughout the video and shouts out in Spanish, “help” and “I can’t breathe”. Other flight attendants look on, ready to assist or provide First Aid should the situation require it.
American Airlines flight AA948 departed Rio at around 10:30 pm on Friday night and landed safely at Miami International Airport at 4:30 am on Saturday morning, according to data by Flight Radar 24.
In the video, the unruly passenger is being restrained in what appears to be the aft galley of the Boeing 777, although it’s not clear what started the incident in the first place.
At one point, as the passengers struggle to restrain the suspect, one attempts to put duct tape over his mouth to stop him from shouting out.
American Airlines did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Duct tape has become a popular restraint method amongst flight attendants, including a viral incident in July 2021 when AA crew members duct-taped a woman to her seat during a flight from Dallas Fort Worth to Charlotte.
The use of duct tape as a restraint technique, however, really became public knowledge the following month when a Frontier Airlines passenger accused of groping flight attendants was duct taped to his seat after he became disruptive.
Shortly after the infamous Frontier incident, United Airlines warned its flight attendants not to use duct tape during unruly passenger incidents as they had access to other “designated items” for use in a restraint.
The latest data from the Department of Transportation (DOT) shows that there have been nearly 2,000 reported unruly passenger incidents in 2023, down a massive 66% compared to 2021, when U.S. airlines reported a worrying surge in disruptive passengers driven mainly by unpopular face mask mandates and other pandemic policies.
Unruly passenger numbers are, however, still way above pre-pandemic levels, with only 1,1161 cases reported in 2019 and less than 550 reported in 2017.
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.