An American Airlines flight bound for John Wayne Airport in Orange County was diverted to Denver on Tuesday after one of the passengers attacked a flight attendant.
Passengers on the flight reported that the alleged assault was prompted by a disagreement between an unnamed male traveller and cabin crew about mask wearing.
Mackenzie Rose, another passenger on the flight, told CBSLA that the incident occurred about halfway through the trip, with the plane re-routing over Ohio for an emergency landing in Denver.
The passenger suspected of assaulting the flight attendant was reportedly in first or business class, and witnesses told press the crew member was left with blood on their face.
“I understand that he actually punched her twice. I did see her walk back down the aisle afterwards. She had blood splattered on the outside of her mask,” said Ms Rose.
“If you’re not prepared to wear a mask, you’re not prepared to fly, is kind of the moral of the story. That was why she was angered, was because… there was an impression that there might be a substance or alcohol involved,” she added.
Another passenger calling himself Jack said a doctor onboard the aircraft had examined the flight attendant after the incident.
“Yeah, there was a doctor on the flight, luckily. So, I don’t know. He said [her nose] wasn’t broken, but it was bleeding, so they took her to the hospital,” he said.
The plane was able to land safely at Denver International, where police officers escorted the offending passenger from the plane and the flight attendant was transferred to hospital.
A statement from American Airlines read: “We are outraged by the reports of what took place on board. Acts of violence against our team members are not tolerated by American Airlines.
“We have engaged local law enforcement and the FBI and we are working with them to ensure they have all the information they need.
“The individual involved in this incident will never be allowed to travel with American Airlines in the future, but we will not be satisfied until he has been prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
“This behaviour must stop and aggressive enforcement and prosecution of the law is the best deterent.
“We thank our crew for their quick action and professionalism to ensure the safety of their fellow team members and customers on board.
“Our thoughts are with our injured flight attendant and ensuring that she and her fellow crew members have the support they need at this time.”
They did not give an update on the condition of the flight attendant, citing “privacy reasons”.