Irvine man faces federal charges in altercation on American Airlines flight

American Airlines planes
An Irvine man was arrested Monday by the FBI after being charged with assaulting an American Airlines flight attendant on a Santa Ana-bound plane that had to make an emergency landing in Denver.
(Associated Press)

A 20-year-old Irvine man was arrested Monday by the FBI at his home after being charged with assaulting an American Airlines flight attendant last week on a plane that had to be diverted because of his behavior.

Brian Hsu faces federal charges of interference with a flight crew and assault within the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States. He is accused of attacking a crew member on Wednesday on American Airlines Flight 976. Hsu appeared in a U.S. District Court in California on Monday on charges filed by the U.S. attorney in Colorado. He was released on $15,000 bail and order to appear again in Denver on Nov. 15.

The flight from New York to Santa Ana was forced to make an emergency landing in Denver, and Hsu was detained initially but not arrested.

“This is happening far too often,” American Airlines Chief Executive Doug Parker declared after the incident. Union officials said the female flight attendant’s nose was broken in the fracas. “On Wednesday evening, we had one of the worst displays of unruly behavior we’ve ever witnessed.”

Airlines don’t share the names of passengers who are banned for unruly behavior. Delta wants to change that, starting with its 1,600-name no-fly list.

Sept. 30, 2021


In the affidavit, the flight attendant told the FBI she was in the plane’s mid-galley when Hsu struck her in the head with his elbow. She made a defensive gesture with her arms in front of her and her hands out, and Hsu charged at her, flailing his arms, before backing down, she said.

He then charged at her again, she told the FBI, and “struck her in the face with the closed fist of his right hand.”

Hsu, however, told investigators that he was stretching outside the airplane’s restroom when he accidentally bumped the flight attendant, who “became agitated and began swinging” at him.

He said brain surgery in 2020 for a head injury made him fearful that “an impact to his head in its current state could cause him severe injury or death,” so Hsu raised his hands in defense. The flight attendant then “charged at him and hit her nose against the palm of his right hand,” he said in the affidavit.

Hsu’s mother, who was on the flight, told the FBI that her son’s brain injury led to behavioral issues and fears of people touching his head.

Hsu told investigators he could not have punched the flight attendant because a previous football injury would have kept him from doing so. But witnesses described him as the attacker in the encounter.


After the incident, crew members barricaded the cockpit with a food cart before the plane made its emergency landing. Passengers were asked to help restrain Hsu and he was duct-taped to his seat, according to the affidavit.

The flight attendant was taken to a hospital, where she was diagnosed with a concussion and a possible broken nose.

The Federal Aviation Administration has reported more unruly passengers on flights in 2021 than ever before. This year, there have been 4,941 incidents involving disorderly passengers; 3,580 of those have been linked to requirements that masks be worn.

Among the incidents, 216 have resulted in enforcement cases being initiated against a passenger. That is 10 times the average number during the last three decades, FAA data show.