NEW YORK (AP) — A flight attendant on a weather-delayed plane yelled at passengers and challenged them to leave the plane if they dared before he was removed and the flight was canceled.
The incident, involving American Eagle flight attendant Jose Serrano, was caught on video. Flight 4607, from LaGuardia Airport to Raleigh-Durham, N.C., was delayed for more than seven hours on Monday before being canceled.
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police, who help keep the region's major airports secure, were called to the plane, but there were no arrests, unlike a similar incident in 2010, when a JetBlue flight attendant went on a public address system and swore at passengers before pulling the emergency chute and sliding off.
According to some American Eagle passengers, Serrano was slurring his words while making incoherent and offensive announcements over the plane's intercom.
Fort Worth, Texas-based American Airlines, which includes American Eagle, apologized for what happened. The airline said in a statement it did "not believe that the passengers' frustrations were always met with the level of service that we expect from our people."
But ABC News reported the airline, whose parent company is AMR Corp., also released an email from a first-class passenger who blamed the incident on "the most horrible display of passenger aggressiveness" toward Serrano. The name of the passenger accused of being aggressive wasn't disclosed.
Traveler Scott Custer, who was on the plane with his wife, said Friday that Serrano's actions made him concerned about what the flight attendant might do after takeoff.
"I'm sitting there thinking, at 30,000 feet if he opens the door because he's disgruntled, my son and daughter won't have a mother or father anymore," Custer said by telephone from his home in Fayetteville, N.C.
Custer said he complained about Serrano's behavior to another flight attendant after about five hours of delays and the entire flight disembarking once. The flight attendant told him to talk to the plane's captain. He said Serrano saw him speaking in the cockpit and confronted him after he returned to his seat.
Custer said he told Serrano he had nothing to say to him and then Serrano went to the front and called police. Custer said he thought Serrano told police he was the one causing trouble onboard.
Port Authority police escorted Custer off the plane despite other passengers protesting that it was Serrano who was being difficult, according to the video. The captain also got off, and later Custer was released.
Serrano then was removed from the plane.
Custer, a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, said he was offended when he was pulled from the plane.
"I've got two Bronze Stars for combat, and I was getting kicked off a plane by some lunatic," said Custer, who got home on another airline on Tuesday.
It was unclear whether Serrano was disciplined by the airline, and it was unknown how long he'd been with American Eagle or whether he had problems on other flights. The company didn't disclose his hometown or other information, so it wasn't immediately possible to reach him for comment.
The incident recalled a similar episode in 2010 involving a JetBlue flight attendant who became unglued on a flight after it landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Steven Slater admitted he pulled the emergency chute on Flight 1052 from Pittsburgh on Aug. 9, 2010. He went on the public-address system, swore at a passenger he claimed treated him rudely, grabbed a beer and slid down onto the tarmac. He later said the episode "was not indicative of who I am."