An “unruly passenger” aboard an American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu was subdued after trying to rush toward the cockpit with a blanket over his head this morning.
The incident prompted two Hawaii Air National Guard F-22 Raptor fighter jets to scramble and escort American Airlines Flight 31 as it landed safely in Honolulu at 11:35 a.m. The passenger was arrested by waiting FBI and law enforcement officers.
It was the second time today that the man was arrested at an airport.
Los Angeles Airport Police identified the man as 25-year-old Anil Uskanil of Turkey. They said that hours before boarding the flight to Hawaii, Uskanil opened an LAX door that led onto an airfield ramp around 2:45 a.m. He was spotted by a contractor and detained until police officers arrived.
Officers determined Uskanil had been drinking but didn’t meet the criteria to be arrested for being drunk in public, police said. Instead, Uskanil was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor trespassing, given a date to appear in court, but allowed to board the 8:45 a.m. (Pacific time) flight to Honolulu.
A few hours into that flight, passengers told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the man was successfully detained by a flight attendant and passengers as he tried to rush into the first-class section with a blanket over his head.
Uskanil, described as having long, dark, wavy hair and wearing a black leather jacket, was handcuffed and escorted off the plane by FBI agents.
Passengers at baggage claim in Honolulu told the Star-Advertiser that when the man first boarded the flight he sat in the first-class section even though he didn’t have a ticketed seat there. He later was escorted to the back of the plane.
About three hours into the flight, he had a blanket over his shoulders and head when he made his way toward first class from the rear of the plane, they said.
First-class passenger Lee Lorenzen said a flight attendant rushed down the aisle with her beverage cart and blocked the man from entering the first-class area. Lorenzen said the man pushed the cart when the flight attendant calmly asked passengers to assist her.
Lorenzen said some passengers grabbed him and took him to his seat in the back of the plane. “And then I think they took some duct tape and taped him to his chair,” he added.
“He seemed off,” said Lorenzen, who with his wife, Penny, was arriving in Hawaii from Orange County for a nine-day vacation.
Passengers said the incident was over in a couple of minutes.
American Airlines spokeswoman Katie Cody said the Flight 31 crew requested law enforcement meet the plane upon landing because of a “passenger disturbance.”
She referred further questions to FBI, saying “We’re still figuring out all the details.” Calls to the Honolulu FBI field office were not immediately returned.
There were 181 passengers and six crew members, Cody told the Associated Press. She was not aware of injuries.
A passenger aboard the flight posted an Instagram video that shows someone being escorted down the plane’s aisle in handcuffs, being directed by a person wearing an FBI windbreaker, along with other people wearing sidearms.
Instagram user bplus.noisefloor.dnb wrote, “Crazy! Someone tried to break into the cockpit on my flight from LA to Honolulu. We were greeted by the FBI. They are now taking us off the plane a few rows at a time for dog-sniffing and interviews. I’ve never seen anything like this.”
A passenger named Veronica, who declined to give her last name, said she saw the man at the gate at LAX before passengers boarded Flight 31.
“I just thought he was a weird character,” she said noting he was carrying a laptop and pacing while smoking an e-cigarette. She said airport personnel told him to stop smoking.
“He just continued to pace back and forth, play with his hair,” said Veronica, who is from Sacramento.
About three hours into the flight, she and her husband, Damien, were seated in the middle of the plane when they observed the man walk through the aisle “with purpose” toward the first-class section with a blanket over his head.
Damien said he saw a flight attendant wave to some passengers who then stood up and assisted her in detaining the suspect.
After they landed in Honolulu, FBI agents boarded the flight and escorted the man off the plane.
Toni Schwartz, spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety, said in an email, “The incident involving an unruly passenger on a plane en route to the Honolulu International Airport is a federal matter and being handled by federal authorities. The sheriffs along with other law enforcement agencies responded to the scene as is normal procedure. The sheriffs do not have anyone in their custody at this time.”
Lt. Col. Chuck Anthony, spokesman for the Hawaii Air National Guard, said two F-22s launched at 10:30 a.m. They landed at 11:30 a.m. after “the F-22s safely escorted the airliner in.”
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly was briefed on the incident, the AP reported. A Homeland Security tweet says there are no other reports of disruptions to flights, but the department continues to “monitor all flights out of an abundance of caution.”
The state Department of Transportation said in a statement this afternoon that operations at the airport “have returned to normal.”
“The plane involved in the in-flight incident has been cleared of passengers and is being checked by an explosive operations detection unit. Please refer any questions on the investigation to the FBI,” DOT officials said. “There is currently a 30-minute backlog caused by the halting of all ground movements on the airfield as the flight came in. We expect this backlog should be resolved by the end of the peak travel window early this afternoon.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.