A Hawaiian Airlines flight from Honolulu to Hilo was forced to return after a passenger assaulted one of its flight attendants in an “unprovoked incident”.

Hawaiian Airlines told the press that flight HA 152 departed the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport on September 23, 2021, around 7:30 a.m. local time. 

The incident happened shortly after departure. The flight attendant was routinely walking down the aisle to collect garbage in the cabin when the passenger allegedly punched him twice. 

Hawaiian Air said the assault “was not triggered by non-compliance with mask-wearing policies. The flight attendant was shaken up but is doing well.”

The plane then returned to Honolulu where deputy sheriffs arrested the 32-year-old passenger for third-degree assault. He was transferred to the Federal Detention Center in FBI custody.

The flight departed for Hilo once again at 09:09 local time.

Later in the afternoon of the same day, September 23, 2021, a separate Hawaiian Airlines flight again had to turn around due to a passenger refusing to wear a mask and causing a disturbance in flight. 

Hawaiian Airlines flight HA 22 was bound for Seattle when it returned to Honolulu approximately 2 hours after take-off. Passengers were then deplaned as Hawaiian Airlines replaced the flight crew. 

These two assaults came shortly after the United States Federal Aviation Administration urged passenger airlines to take more action against unruly passengers.  

For the year 2021 alone, airlines have reported nearly 4,300 incidents of unruly passengers to the FAA and the agency has opened 750 investigations ― four times the number typically seen in a full year.

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The FAA urges airlines to take more action against unruly passengers.