BOSTON (WPRI/NEXSTAR) — A passenger on a JetBlue flight is facing federal charges after choking a flight attendant and trying to enter the cockpit on a recent flight, according to an FBI affidavit.
The flight, which originated in Boston, was about an hour out from landing in Puerto Rico when the attack occurred Wednesday.
Investigators say the passenger, identified as Khalil El Dahr in an FBI affidavit obtained by The Daily Beast, became agitated when he was unable to make a call on his cellphone. A short while afterward, he ran toward the front of the plane yelling that he wanted to be shot, according to information obtained by an FBI investigator.
A flight attendant was able to intervene before El Dahr reached the cockpit door, per the affidavit. A member of the flight crew then opened the door to the flight deck, at which point El Dahr began again demanding to be shot.
The man also began choking the flight attendant attempting to keep him away from the cockpit by grabbing and pulling on the crew member’s tie.
Several crew members were eventually able to restrain the man using seat belt extenders and, as one witness noted, the very tie that belonged to the flight attendant, which was fastened around the man’s ankles.
The passenger now faces charges of interfering with a flight crew, according to the affidavit.
A representative for the San Juan field office of the FBI confirmed the incident but could not disclose additional details.
The Federal Aviation Administration said this week that the number of incidents involving unruly passengers was still “too high” despite dropping sharply amid the FAA’s announcement of a “zero-tolerance” policy, first enacted in January.
“Our work is having an impact and the trend is moving in the right direction. But we need the progress to continue. This remains a serious safety threat, and one incident is one too many,” FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said in a news release issued Thursday.
The FAA further said that reports of unruly passengers were still coming in at twice the rate they were reported at the end of 2020. Since January 2021, the agency has received reports of at least 4,385 such incidents, the majority of which involve passengers refusing to comply with mask mandates.
The FAA has also proposed over $1,100,000 in civil penalties (collectively) against some of those disruptive passengers since enacting its zero-tolerance policy.