DENVER (AP) — A 20-year-old California man accused of assaulting a flight attendant on a cross-country American Airlines flight allegedly punched the woman in the face after being told he could not use the bathroom, leaving her bleeding around her nose and giving her a concussion, according to a court document.
Prosecutors announced Monday that Brian Hsu, 20, of Irvine was charged with assault and interfering with a flight crew on a flight last week from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York to John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, California.
He appeared in federal court in California Monday and was released on a $10,000 bond. He was ordered to appear in federal court in Denver, where the flight was diverted after the alleged assault, on Nov. 15.
It was not known if Hsu had an attorney who could comment on his behalf.
According to an affidavit from an FBI agent who investigated the incident, four witnesses and the flight attendant, who was not named, said Hsu punched the attendant on Wednesday’s flight. Meanwhile, Hsu, who said he was returning home after undergoing brain surgery in Rhode Island, told investigators that the attendant charged at him, hitting her nose on his palm.
Hsu said that, while stretching, he accidentally hit the flight attendant with his arm or hand and she began swinging at him with her hands. Fearing she was going to hit him in the head, he raised his hands defensively, he said. According to Hsu, the attendant then charged at him, hitting his palm. Hsu said he suffered a skull injury in New York City last fall and sometimes experiences a mental “fog” when thinking is difficult, the document said.
The attendant told investigators that she was talking to a coworker when she felt something hit her head and turned around to see Hsu, who said he wanted to use the bathroom, the document said.
She said she told him he could not because the “fasten seatbelts” sign was on. He then raised his arms as if to stretch and hit her head with his elbow, causing her to put her arms out and her hands up to defend herself, she said, according to the document. After he appeared to back down, she said he charged at her and punched her with his right hand.
Hsu, who was later restrained in his seat with duct tape and then “plastic bonds,” told investigators that he could not form a fist with his right hand because of an injury, the document said.
The alleged assault comes amid a surge this year in unruly airline passengers, who sometimes become violent.
At the time, Fort Worth, Texas-based American said the passenger, not publicly identified then, would be banned from all future flights. It also called for his prosecution. “This behavior must stop,” the airline said.
The head of the union representing the airline’s flight attendants, the Association of Flight Attendants, praised the decision to file charges against Hsu as a way to help deter verbal and physical abuse on flights. However, Sara Nelson also asked the federal government, airlines and airports to do more to hold disruptive passengers accountable, including creating a list of people barred from flying on any airline.
“This is not a new normal we are willing to accept,” Nelson said.