CLEVELAND (WJW) — Phones captured a confrontation between an unruly passenger and an airline employee that quickly escalated on board a plane waiting to take off from Cleveland Hopkins International Airport on Wednesday night.
The Frontier Airlines jetliner was waiting to depart for Phoenix when witnesses said two passengers exchanged words about the Cincinnati Bengals being in the Super Bowl. A Frontier employee intervened and told one of the men he’d had too much to drink.
The witnesses said it appeared the man was being escorted off of the plane when he lunged at the employee.
Video of the incident shows another passenger grab the man and put him in a chokehold. A friend of the unruly passenger then began shouting for the man to release the chokehold and he eventually complied.
As the unruly passenger was being escorted off the plane, he told other passengers, “I was a Bengals fan, I was the only Bengals fan. I’m not a bad person, bro, I drank a little too much, and one guy back there had a problem that I was drinking too much.”
Jason Brake, the passenger who recorded the video, said, “Before I had actually recorded, he said that they were discriminating against him because he possibly did have too much to drink.”
Brake said the passenger who had been drinking and lunged at the employee is to blame for what happened. But he said he believes the passenger who intervened and put the man in a chokehold caused the situation to escalate.
“When I watched that, I was like, ‘OK, this guy is assaulting somebody that they’re trying to remove from the plane.’ The guy is not qualified to handle that situation, and it could have made it worse, and you’ve got all these people that are stuck there, and there’s going to be a stampede to try to get out of a little small door,” he said.
After the passenger was removed and the plane eventually took off for Phoenix, the incident and the role that alcohol may have played were topics throughout the flight.
“The captain and the crew did make the comment that ‘This is why you do not buy your own alcohol and you drink it on board because this will happen,’ and they said basically, ‘We hope that he won’t be on any future flights with us.’ People have to make the wise decision. I mean, alcohol and flying just really don’t mix,” Brake said.
The Cleveland Division of Police have a copy of the video of the incident, and charges against the passenger are pending.
A Frontier spokesperson released the following statement Thursday afternoon:
As Flight 2415 scheduled from Cleveland to Phoenix on February 9 was at the gate prior to takeoff, a passenger was behaving disruptively and was asked to exit the aircraft by a gate agent. The passenger became increasingly aggressive, physically assaulting the gate agent. The passenger was subsequently arrested by local enforcement and has been permanently placed on our Prevent Departure list.