Ranting flight attendant restrained by passengers
The American Airlines flight attendant who caused the commotion continued to scream as she was handcuffed by police and placed into a police car, passengers said.
CHICAGO — An American Airlines flight attendant disrupted a flight Friday morning as it was about to take off from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, saying over the aircraft intercom system that the plane was going to crash, alluding to the Sept. 11 attacks and ranting about the airline's bankruptcy reorganization, passengers said.
Passengers restrained the flight attendant until airport police arrived.
Two flight attendants were injured in the incident and were taken to a hospital. No passengers were injured, and they never were in danger, an airline spokeswoman said.
The flight attendant who caused the commotion continued to scream as she was handcuffed by police and placed into a police car, passengers said after they exited the plane at Chicago O'Hare International Airport.
"I will never get that sound of her screaming out of my head," said Bethany Christakos, of Plano, Texas. "It took a good 10 minutes, it felt like, to get her off of the plane."
Other passengers said the incident was defused in about 15 minutes but that it made them nervous. "We were pretty frightened," said Greg Lozano, of Elmhurst, Ill. "I was glad we weren't in the air. That was the primary thing I was thinking."
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) confirmed there was an "altercation" involving American Airlines Flight 2332, which landed at Chicago O'Hare at 11:46 a.m. CST, more than an hour late.
According to reports by passengers, the trouble began as the plane taxied to the runway for takeoff. A flight attendant who had been giving preflight safety instructions began speaking incoherently over the intercom system, confusing and startling passengers.
The attendant said the plane had a mechanical issue and was going to return to the airport gate. Other flight attendants interrupted and said there were no mechanical issues and that the plane was preparing for takeoff.
The upset attendant then said over the public-address system that it would not be her fault if the plane crashed. She began speaking in incomplete sentences, using the words "bankruptcy" and "American Airlines," passengers said. She also referred to the Sept. 11 attacks, passengers said.
Some passengers then began calling 911.
Other flight attendants attempted to calm the woman, but she remained agitated. Three or four passengers then left their seats and went to the front of the plane to help restrain her as the plane returned to the gate, a move requested by the pilot, FAA officials confirmed.
Some passengers said the woman appeared to be having a mental breakdown. One passenger said the flight attendant mentioned that she was bipolar and that she had not taken her medication.
A flight attendant who appeared to be injured while attempting to restrain the woman was placed on a gurney and taken away in an ambulance.
An American Airlines spokeswoman said two attendants were taken to local hospitals for treatment. "We will ensure that the affected flight attendants receive proper care, and we commend our other crew members for their assistance in quickly getting the aircraft back to the gate so that customers could be reaccommodated," the airline said in a statement. The original cabin crew was replaced with another one before takeoff, the airline said.
"Our customers were not in danger at any time," the airline said, adding it was continuing an investigation into the incident. "We apologize for any inconvenience to our customers, and we appreciate their patience and understanding."
The Transportation Security Administration also said it was aware of the incident but referred questions to American Airlines and airport police.
American Airlines filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization Nov. 29, but has continued flying, as many airlines have during reorganizations.
A spokesman for the Texas airport said no state criminal charges were being considered.
FBI spokeswoman Lydia Maese said agents who responded to the incident decided there was no need to investigate further.
Airline-industry officials said incidents such as Friday's are rare. A JetBlue Airways flight attendant, Steven Slater, made a flamboyant exit from his job in 2010 when he took over the PA system, cursed a passenger, snatched a beer, pulled the emergency chute and slid to the tarmac. Slater said he cracked under the pressure of health and family problems.
The FAA requires pilots to pass medical and psychological tests, but it doesn't require the same for flight attendants. American declined to say whether it screens applicants for mental health.
Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.