A passenger was arrested after he was alleged to have hurled homophobic slurs at a Delta Air Lines flight attendant and to have assaulted the man on a flight from Atlanta to Phoenix.
A criminal complaint alleges that Christopher Alexander Morgan began causing disruption on Friday's flight before takeoff. Morgan, who was seated in first class, refused to wear a seat belt and would not comply with crew members' requests to put his seat upright, the complaint says.
A flight attendant had to force Morgan's seat up so the flight could take off, according to the complaint.
During the flight, Morgan was served one alcoholic beverage, the complaint says. When he asked for another, a second flight attendant refused and instead offered him a nonalcoholic drink, it says. Morgan became angry and tossed his ice at the flight attendant while calling the man "queer" and using a homophobic slur, according to the complaint.
A passenger tried to intervene, but it did not calm Morgan down, the complaint says. The flight attendant used a telephone near the cockpit to inform the pilot about Morgan's behavior, it says. According to the complaint, the flight attendant told federal investigators that while he was on the phone, Morgan got out of his seat, grabbed the telephone and hit him in the chest with it.
The passenger also told investigators that he saw Morgan throw the telephone at the flight attendant, the complaint says.
The complaint alleges that Morgan told the FBI that "the flight attendant was homosexual and that this made him uncomfortable. When the flight attendant refused to serve Morgan another drink, he became angry."
"Morgan said that he is homophobic and that it is possible he could have been intimidating the flight attendants," it reads. "He said that his homophobia may have caused his temper towards the flight attendant to escalate."
The complaint alleges that Morgan admitted to using derogatory language during his altercation with the flight attendant but denied assaulting him.
Delta Air Lines said in a statement Wednesday that law enforcement was waiting at the airport when the plane landed in Phoenix.
"Delta has zero tolerance for unruly behavior and discrimination at our airports and aboard our aircraft and takes all reports of such behavior seriously, especially when directed at our employees. Nothing is more important than the safety of our people and our customers," a spokesman said.
Federal agencies have been cracking down on unruly airline passengers. The Federal Aviation Administration said last week that it was permanently implementing its zero-tolerance policy for disruptive passengers, which issues fines instead of warning letters or counseling.
Since Jan. 1, the agency has received 1,272 reports of unruly passengers, the FAA tweeted Wednesday. More than 200 "FAA enforcement cases initiated" have also been initiated.
As of Feb. 16, the FAA referred 80 cases to the FBI for criminal review. It is also working with the Transportation Security Administration to revoke TSA PreCheck, an expedited security screening program, for passengers who are fined by the FAA.
"Behaving dangerously on a plane will cost you; that’s a promise,” acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen said in a statement. “Unsafe behavior simply does not fly and keeping our Zero Tolerance policy will help us continue making progress to prevent and punish this behavior.”