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'Air Rage' Forces Delta Flight to Land as Cases Soar

NBC News logo NBC News 1/13/2017 Phil McCausland and Gabe Gutierrez
Image: Delta Airlines planes sit at Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy Airport © Delta Airlines planes sit at Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy Airport July 22, 2014 in New York City. Image: Delta Airlines planes sit at Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy Airport

Two passengers on a plane flying from Minneapolis to Los Angeles Thursday created such a powerful ruckus that they forced the pilot to turn around — serving as a reminder of the soaring cases of "air rage."

A video of the high-altitude fracas shows a man lunging at another passenger and a woman cursing as police pulled them both from their Delta flight.

According to Patrick Whalen, the passenger who took the video, tempers flared after a flight attendant asked the woman — who was trying to use the bathroom during takeoff — to sit down. Then the man and woman were both started shouting, he said.

"In my million miles of flying, I've never seen anything like it," said Whalen. "And it was... it was horrible."

He added, "they were so unruly and so out of control."

The Delta flight returned to Minneapolis, where the plane was met by law enforcement and the police carted of the infuriated pair.

The couple, identified as Anna Christine Koosmann, 36, and Blake Adam Fleisig, 35, both of Los Angeles, were each charged with disorderly conduct and later released, according to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport police.

The flight would then finally arrive in Los Angeles two-and-a-half hours later.

The prosecuting attorney for the Metropolitan Airports Commission decided against pursuing the case against Fleisig, officials told NBC News on Thursday January 12. According to Patrick Hogan, director of public affairs for the commission, Fleisig was drawn into the altercation after another passenger attempted to trip him.

Cases of "air rage," or incidents in which a passenger angrily loses control, have continued to increase in the past few years. Airlines reported 10,854 cases of "air rage" last year, according to the International Air Transport Association. That marks a 16.5 percent jump from 2014, when 9,316 cases were reported.

Most of the cases of these mid-air meltdowns included verbal abuse and a refusal to follow crew instructions.

Charlie Loecha, president of Travelers United a non-profit advocacy group, thinks customers' growing fury isn't linked to the booze they're consuming, but rather the personal space they're losing.

"I don't think that alcohol really is the cause of the increase in air rage," he said. "Alcohol has been served on planes for years, the real cause of air rage increase is the lack of personal space on aircraft."

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