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Delta passenger arrested after fracas with fellow passenger during boarding, police say

The fisticuffs between the two passengers caused a 31-minute delay, but the flight eventually took off.

A Delta Airlines passenger was arrested Friday morning after a fracas with another passenger during the flight boarding process, according to the Atlanta Police Department.

Curtis Maurice Clayton, 30, allegedly punched German Montez, 43, who was seated behind him on Delta flight 412 from Atlanta to Los Angeles, police said.

"Montez was placing something in the seat pocket and Clayton protested. The dispute escalated until Clayton punched Montez after which Clayton was then restrained by a passenger," the APD said.

Clayton then allegedly damaged a police vehicle during the investigation, and was subsequently charged with battery and interference with government property. He was jailed at the Clayton County Jail.

According to video verified by NBC News, the two men fought in the aisle, with multiple people attempting to restrain them.

"Seriously?" asks one passenger in the video as he places his hand to his forehead in exasperation. "I already missed one flight!"

The flight eventually took off after a 31-minute delay and departed at 7:46 a.m., Delta said in a statement.

Reports of unruly behavior on planes, including violence against crew members, have increased since the start of the pandemic.

Data provided by the Federal Aviation Administration show 923 investigations have been initiated this year into violations of specific regulations or federal laws.

That number is up from 183 last year and 146 in 2019. Prior to 2021, the most investigations initiated in the 26-year period dating back to 1995 was 310 in 2004.

So far this year, 4,941 incidents of unruly behavior on flights were reported, the Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday, 3,580 of which were mask-related.

The rate is lower than it was at a peak earlier this year, the FAA said in a September statement, and their year-to-date data showed that about six such incidents occur on every 10,000 flights.

The statement said the FAA's zero-tolerance policy for unruly passengers, announced in January, means that the agency skips warning letters and goes directly to fines, $1.1 million of which have been issued as of last month.