Flight headed for DC diverted after passenger attempts to open plane doors

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been changed to reflect that the plane headed to Ronald Reagan National Airport before diverting to Kansas City. 

An American Airlines flight headed for Ronald Reagan National Airport was diverted to Kansas City, Missouri, Sunday night after a passenger allegedly tried to open a plane door midflight.

A spokesperson for the airline told WTOP that American Airlines Flight 1775 from Los Angeles to DCA changed course when a passenger began “displaying erratic behavior.”

“We’re grateful to our crew members, who are consistently dedicated to the safety and care of our customers and who handled the circumstances with the utmost skill and professionalism,” the airline said in a statement. “We also appreciate the customers who stepped in to assist our crew.”

The erratic passenger was ultimately subdued with the help of other passengers on the flight and some crew members. The person allegedly attempted to open a plane door midflight, according to Mouaz Moustafa, a passenger recording the events on the plane.

The flight landed at Kansas City International Airport safely, and law enforcement met the flight and took the passenger into custody. No further information was given by the FBI agent in charge of the investigation.

Carlos Rojas, another passenger on the plane delayed by more than five hours, described the moments before the plane landed to our news partners at NBC Washington.

“It wasn’t too scary only because I didn’t really know what was happening until it was happening,” Rojas said.

Afterward, he said that officers were on the plane conducting interviews to make sense of the event.

“As soon as we landed they came on the plane,” Rojas told NBC Washington. “They escorted the gentleman that was causing the disturbance off the plane and proceeded to conduct interviews and ask people questions,” Rojas said.

American Airlines has said that it is working closely with the police but didn’t disclose details on the passenger or if they were charged. Meanwhile, other commercial airliners like Delta Air Lines have formally asked the Department of Justice to place unruly passengers on no-fly lists.

This is the second time in two months that a flight between D.C. and Los Angeles has found itself diverted due to an unruly passenger.

In November of 2021, Attorney General Merrick Garland told U.S. attorneys across the country that federal crimes happening on flights should be prosecuted.

“The Department of Justice is committed to using its resources to do its part to prevent violence, intimidation, threats of violence and other criminal behavior that endangers the safety of passengers, flight crews and flight attendants on commercial aircraft,” Garland said.

He added that passengers that choose to “assault, intimidate or threaten violence against flight crews and flight attendants” endanger more than crews and staff. His comments were made amid what has been deemed a historic spike in unruly passenger cases continues across the country.

Ivy Lyons

Ivy Lyons is a digital journalist for WTOP.com. Since 2018, they have worked on Capitol Hill, at NBC News in Washington, and with WJLA in Washington.

Lauren Hamilton

Lauren Hamilton is an Associate Producer at WTOP and a graduate of the University of Maryland. She enjoys covering the intersection of arts, culture and social justice in local communities. She began as an intern with WTOP in the summer of 2021.

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