By Eric M. Johnson
SEATTLE (Reuters) – A Delta Air Lines flight bound for Beijing returned to Seattle on Thursday after a passenger assaulted a flight attendant in the first-class cabin before being subdued by other travelers, a Seattle-Tacoma International Airport spokesman said.
The flight attendant and a passenger were sent to an area hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening after the Boeing 767-300 landed safely shortly after 7 p.m., airport spokesman Perry Cooper said.
A 23-year-old male passenger, from Florida, was arrested by Port of Seattle police on suspicion of assaulting a member of the flight crew and was transferred to federal detention, a Federal Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman said by e-mail.
Delta flight 129 departed Seattle-Tacoma International Airport at around 5:30 p.m., but headed back to Seattle roughly 45 minutes into the flight, Cooper said.
Cooper said the man assaulted a flight attendant in the first-class cabin, but said he had no further details about the incident.
The FBI, which was assisting local police with the investigation, interviewed passengers and had no information to suggest the incident was a threat to national security, said Ayn Dietrich, an agency spokeswoman.
The suspect was due to make to an initial appearance in federal court in Seattle on Friday afternoon, Dietrich said.
Cooper said multiple passengers intervened to help subdue the suspect during the in-flight disturbance. The pilot decided to turn back and call for police, fire, and medical personnel to meet the plane.
Lorie Dankers, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration, said there was no security breach at the airport, south of Seattle.
Delta spokeswoman Liz Savadelis said by e-mail that the passenger was restrained onboard and then removed from the flight by law enforcement without further incident after the plane landed in Seattle.
The flight was scheduled to re-depart for Beijing later in the evening, Savadelis said.
Media reports that the plane was escorted back to Seattle by military jets were inaccurate, she added.
The Federal Aviation Administration declined to comment.
(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Robert Birsel)