SAN FRANCISCO — A Montgomery County, Texas man has been banned from United flights after the airline said he assaulted an employee.
A witness who was on the plane recorded the incident and said the man punched a gate employee in the face over a seat.
This happened on Sunday, April 30 on a redeye flight from San Franciso to Houston.
Naya Jimenez, the witness who recorded the assault, told CBS News that she and her family boarded the 11:59 p.m. departure flight to Houston to return home from vacation. She said as she was walking toward her assigned seat, she noticed a woman was sitting where she was supposed to sit.
Jimenez said she showed the woman her boarding pass and just asked if she can slide past her to sit in the next seat, but the woman completely blocked her, forcing her to sit somewhere else.
"I'm not really a confrontational person so I sat at a seat that I found nearby and just kind of waited things out because I didn't want to block anybody else from sitting in their seat," she said.
Jimenez thought she would be able to remain where she was sitting for her flight to Houston but moments later, flight attendants approached her and asked what was going on. She said she showed the flight attendants her boarding pass and explained to them what happened.
According to Jimenez, the flight attendants spent about 30 minutes talking to the woman and the man she was with, but the woman refused to move.
A gate employee then boarded the plane and approached the man and woman, telling them the woman was not assigned to the seat she was sitting in.
"Although you can tell at that point his speech was a little bit slurred, he explained that they had a flight delayed and eventually missed their flight and between the waiting time from their previous flight to the flight that we were on, he upgraded both of their seats," Jimenez described the man telling the gate employee.
Jimenez said the employee had to explain that the seats were upgraded differently, but the man wasn't understanding it.
"He asked at that time, 'Why are you smiling at me,' to the gate attendant that was there. And that's when we realized, this was probably not going to be good," Jimenez said.
Jimenez was right. Soon after, the gate attendant asked the man if he could speak with him outside the plane. Jimenez said that's when the video recording starts and things take a turn for the worse.
In the video, you see the man get up and get into the gate attendant's face. Within seconds, punches start flying.
"I was completely terrified," Jimenez said. "I was right in front of him the whole time and so when everything was happening, he moved to the front of the plane, I thought when he was coming back he would see me and assume I'm the reason he's upset, by technicality."
Jimenez said she didn't expect this situation to turn ugly and she actually didn't have a problem sitting anywhere else but the attendants said the flight was full.
According to United, the man was cited and released for battery. The airline said though the man was arrested, the investigation remains open.
Below is a full statement from United on the incident:
"On Sunday night, our team at San Francisco International Airport immediately contacted law enforcement after a disruptive customer assaulted one of our customer service employees during boarding. This customer's behavior was unacceptable, he has been banned from future United flights and we are working with local law enforcement in their investigation.
We’re grateful to our team for their professionalism and for looking out for the safety of our customers and their fellow United employees."
The airline asks anyone with information on this incident to call the San Franciso Police Department 24-hour Tip Line at 1-415-575-4444. You can also "Text a Tip" to TIP411 and begin the text message with SFPD. You may remain anonymous.