California man pleads guilty to interfering with flight crew

American Airlines aircraft parked together.
Prayitno, Los Angeles, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A California man pleaded guilty in federal court this week with respect to an in-flight incident on board an American Airlines flight on February 13, 2022.

The man, who was a passenger aboard the flight, was subdued by several passengers and flight attendants when he tried to open the exit door on an American Airlines flight en route to Washington, D.C.

The aircraft was forced to divert and subsequently landed at Kansas City International Airport in Kansas City, Missouri.

American Airlines Flight 1775

In an incident that unfolded on American Airlines Flight 1775, on February 13, 2022, a California man named as Juan Remberto Rivas, pleaded guilty in federal court to interfering with flight crew members and flight attendants.

The inflight incident occurred on a nonstop flight from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. Witnesses reported that the man went to the front of the plane and engaged in a heated argument with a flight attendant.


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Rivas admitted that he created a disturbance which knowingly intimidated a flight attendant of the aircraft. He had taken plastic silverware and concealed it in his shirt sleeve, creating an illusion of a makeshift weapon.

He then grabbed a small champagne bottle and attempted to break the bottle on the counter. Following this, the situation further escalated when he then attempted to open an exit door by lifting the handle.

Swift Response

Another flight attendant then took a coffee pot and hit the disruptive passenger with it. The swift response led to Rivas being subdued and restrained for the remainder of the flight.

Flight crew subsequently elected to divert the aircraft to Kansas City, where it landed without further incident.

Pleading guilty before U.S. District Judge Roseann A. Ketchmark, Rivas now faces severe consequences under federal statutes.

With a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison without parole, the gravity of such offenses which involve interfering with flight operations and flight crew aboard a commercial aircraft is clear.

The court, guided by advisory sentencing guidelines and statutory factors, will determine Rivas’ fate in a sentencing hearing following a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.

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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 3 Min Read
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