Delta flight diverted after passenger assaults flight attendant, air marshal, police say

A Delta flight to Los Angeles was diverted Thursday to Oklahoma City after a passenger assaulted a flight attendant and an air marshal who intervened, officials said.

Flight 342 left Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., and landed at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City after the crew reported the disturbance, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

A passenger on the flight became combative and assaulted a flight attendant, Oklahoma City Police Capt. Arthur Gregory said.

“An air marshal on board intervened, at which point the passenger assaulted the air marshal,” he said. “The air marshal was basically able to get them in custody.”

The Oklahoma City Police Department said officers boarded the plane after it landed at around 7:30 p.m. and removed the passenger, who was later identified as Ariel Pennington, 35, from the plane. 

Pennington was booked into the Oklahoma County Detention Center on "complaints of disorderly conduct and public drunkenness," the department said Friday in a statement to NBC News.

Officials did not provide information on the conditions of the flight attendant and air marshal.

Delta said in a written statement that it “applauds the quick action and professionalism of the crew and Federal Air Marshals" on the flight that was diverted after the passenger "became unruly."

The plane spent about an hour on the ground before resuming its flight to Los Angeles, according to Gregory.

There has been an increase in disruptive passengers or violent assaults on planes this year which prompted an FAA “zero tolerance” policy put in place in January.

The FAA has slapped some passengers with tens of thousands of dollars in fines. In late November the agency proposed more than $161,800 in all in fines against eight passengers.

There have been more than 5,500 “unruly passenger reports” this year, with more than 3,900 mask-related incidents, according to the FAA. 

In one attack on a flight attendant in October, a 20-year-old male passenger allegedly struck an attendant in the face and gave her a concussion.

In May, a woman on a Southwest Airlines fight punched a flight attendant, causing the attendant to lose two of her teeth, officials said.

Some passengers have been charged with federal crimes. Right before Thanksgiving, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland directed federal prosecutors to make crimes on commercial airliners a priority.

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