Unruly Passenger Allegedly Fought Flight Attendant, Attempted to Storm Cockpit of Plane

A passenger on a Jet Blue flight from Boston to San Juan, Puerto Rico was arrested after he allegedly got out of his seat and ran toward the cockpit yelling "shoot me" in Spanish and fought a flight attendant, according to an FBI affidavit.

Flight 261 was approximately an hour away from landing in San Juan when the man, identified as Khalil El Dahr, allegedly attempted to make a phone call and got angry when the call was unsuccessful. He allegedly got out of his seat and ran toward the cockpit yelling for the flight attendant to "shoot him."

While the flight attendant attempted to restrain the man, he kicked the flight attendant in the chest and held them by the tie, making it difficult for them to breathe. The flight attendant was able to get free from the man's grasp and restrained him from gaining access to the cockpit where the pilots were located, the affidavit stated.

Investigators said it took six or seven crew members to eventually restrain the man utilizing makeshift restraints including a flight attendant's necktie and seat belt extensions. Flex cuffs were also used on the man's wrists but he was able to break free and flight attendants used at least four seat belt extenders in another attempt to restrain him.

After successfully restraining him, the flight crew escorted El Dahr to the back of the plane where he sat for the remainder of the flight. When the plane arrived in San Juan, law enforcement boarded the plane to assist with the situation.

El Dahr was arrested by authorities in San Juan and is now facing federal charges including interference with flight crew members and attendants, according to the affidavit.

Recent data released by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) shows a frightening increase in the reports of unruly airline passengers in the past year. The data stated that in 2021 alone, the agency has already launched investigations for over 789 reports compared to 183 in the entire year of 2020.

The agency has also received over 4,385 reports of unruly passengers in the past year and proceeded with 162 enforcement cases. Approximately 3,199 of the reports dealt with passengers not complying with federal mask mandates.

In response, the FAA launched a "Zero Tolerance Campaign" which enacts stricter legal enforcement policies on unruly passengers. The FAA proposed a monetary increase for all violations of unruly passengers from approximately $25,000 per violation, to up to approximately $37,000 per violation, some up to $45,000. Unruly passengers can also face prison time depending on the violations.

In August, the FAA proposed $531,545 in penalties for at least 34 unruly airline passengers, bringing the total to over $1 million in civil penalties in 2021 alone.

On Thursday, a flight attendant from North Carolina testified in front of a panel of congress on behalf of the flight attendant's union. He called for greater criminal enforcement of unruly passengers and discussed a particular incident in which a passenger verbally assaulted him after he was asked to put on his face mask.

"We need messaging from leadership that's consistent about what we're doing together to face this crisis," Association of Flight Attendants International President Sarah Nelson told Today.

Unruly Passenger Chokes Flight Attendant
An unruly passenger got angry after his phone would not successfully make a call and choked a flight attendant while attempting to gain access to the cockpit. The man is facing federal charges including interference with flight crew members and attendants. ViktorCap/Getty Images