A video purports to show two Delta Air Lines passengers in a brawl aboard a flight from Los Angeles, California to Memphis, Tennessee after one of the men reportedly upset others on the plane by being loud and not wearing a face mask.
TMZ first reported and shared video of the Christmas Eve fight on the Delta aircraft. An eyewitness reportedly told TMZ that one of the men — who can be seen wearing a blue shirt in the clip — angered other passengers because he wasn’t consistently wearing a mask, as required by federal law amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The eyewitness reportedly said the man had been drinking and had been loud before the altercation.
The other man involved in the fight reportedly confronted the man in blue, with the two exchanging angry words before their spat turned to blows. In the clip, the men can be seen brawling in the middle of the aisle as other passengers scream for them to stop. At some point, the man in blue rips off the other man’s mask.
After about 20 seconds, some other passengers intervene. They successfully manage to pull the men apart as a man in an Italia shirt steps between them.
“Guys, break it up. Be calm man. Chill!” the man in the Italia shirt tells them. Other passengers can be heard saying “thank you guys” to those who intervened.
In a statement emailed to Newsweek, a Delta spokesperson said the airline was looking into the fight. “Delta is investigating this incident. Safety is always our No. 1 priority and while unruly passenger incidents are rare, there is no place for them on our aircraft or in our airports,” the spokesperson said.
According to TMZ, the two men were not met by police upon arrival in Tennessee. They reportedly were both seen at baggage claim before going their separate ways for the holidays.
Back in May, the Federal Aviation Administration warned that airlines were seeing a significant uptick in fights and dangerous passenger behavior aboard planes. The agency reportedly sees 100 to 150 formally reported incidents of unruly passenger behavior in a typical year, NBC News reported. But as of the spring, the number of incidents reported in 2021 had surged to some 1,300 — even though fewer people were flying due to the pandemic.
Passengers refusing to wear masks as well as drinking excessively were some of the key issues driving the unruly behavior, according to the FAA. Videos of passengers refusing to wear masks and sometimes getting into physical altercations with other passengers and flight attendants have gone viral repeatedly over the past year.
“It is not permissible and we will not tolerate interfering with a flight crew and the performance of their safety duties,” FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson told NBC News. “Period.”
Airlines have largely required passengers to wear face masks since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, wearing masks in planes was not a federal requirement until President Joe Biden took office in January. One of the first executive orders the president signed after he officially entered the White House required passengers to wear face coverings — unless actively eating and/or drinking — on planes, trains and buses.
This article was updated with a statement from Delta about the incident.