A Delta Air Lines passenger sitting in first class allegedly assaulted a flight attendant, calling him homophobic slurs, throwing ice at him and hitting him in the chest with a phone, according to an arrest affidavit.
Christopher Alexander Morgan was flying home to Arizona from Atlanta on Friday when the incident unfolded, the FBI report says. The trip was rocky from the start: Before takeoff, Morgan reclined his first-class seat all the way back and refused to fasten his seat belt, the affidavit says.
One of the flight attendants, identified as G.H., had to push the button on the seat to move it upright.
Still, Morgan was able to order an alcoholic beverage. When he asked for a second one, a flight attendant identified as H.D. offered him a nonalcoholic beverage, which “angered Morgan,” the arrest report says. He allegedly threw a glass of ice at the flight attendant’s face and started to use slurs against him.
Another passenger tried to calm the situation, but Morgan got angry and held his glass up to the man’s face, the report says.
The flight attendant identified as H.D. walked to the galley area to tell the pilot by phone what was happening. Morgan allegedly got out of his seat, grabbed the phone and hit H.D. in the chest with it. Another flight attendant was told to stay near the cockpit door for the rest of the flight “out of security concerns for the flight crew,” the report says.
In a statement, Delta said the flight was met by law enforcement when it arrived at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
“Delta has zero tolerance for unruly behavior and discrimination at our airports and aboard our aircraft and takes all reports of such behavior seriously, especially when directed at our employees,” the statement says. “Nothing is more important than the safety of our people and our customers.”
After the flight landed in Phoenix, police officers interviewed witnesses. Interviewed by the FBI, Morgan said he was uncomfortable because he believed the flight attendant was gay and angry because he was refused a second drink. He said he never touched a phone and denied assaulting the flight attendant, but admitted to calling him a slur.
“Morgan said that he is homophobic and that it is possible he could have been intimidating to the flight attendants,” the affidavit says. “He said that his homophobia may have caused his temper towards the flight attendant to escalate.”
Court records showed that Morgan was in custody Monday for an initial court appearance; he faces a charge of interference with a flight crew member. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for May 3. His federal public defender declined to comment.
Disruptive behavior by air travelers reached record levels during the pandemic, in many cases driven by conflicts over masks. The federal mask mandate was struck down by a federal judge in Florida last week.
As of April 19, the Federal Aviation Administration had received 1,233 reports of unruly passengers this year; of those, 797 were related to masks. The FAA has pointed to alcohol consumption as one factor behind disruptive behavior and asked airports to help curb the sale of to-go alcohol. Airlines paused alcohol sales early in the pandemic, but some held off on resuming that service amid a rise in bad behavior — until recently. Southwest Airlines and American Airlines, the former holdouts, are selling boozy drinks again.