The INSANE Details Of What Happened On Yesterday’s Delta Flight That Left Several Injured

Filed Under: Delta

Many of you probably heard about an incident that occurred on yesterday’s Delta flight from Seattle to Beijing, DL129. At first the details were limited, though we knew that several people were injured in an altercation, and that the plane returned to SeaTac Airport a couple of hours after it departed.

Now the details have emerged of what exactly went down on the flight, as a criminal complaint has been filed against Joseph Hudek IV, the passenger who caused the disturbance. Here’s the report, per @jonostrower:

You can read the entire complaint, though I’ll share a few of the highlights here. First of all, this situation was much crazier than I expected. I thought this was some mild disturbance, but no, a full fledged fight occurred, as the crew and passengers fought to detain the passenger. They even tried to control the passenger by smashing a wine bottle over his head, and that didn’t work.

Here’s what went down:

  • The passenger who caused the disturbance was seated in 1D, and was actually flying on a “dependent” pass, so he was related to a Delta employee (someone is getting their flight privileges revoked, me thinks)
  • About an hour after takeoff he went into the forward lavatory, then exited quickly, asked a flight attendant a question, and then went back into the lavatory
  • When he emerged from the lavatory he lunged towards the emergency exit and tried to open it, though of course it didn’t open due to the pressurization difference, as the plane was at such a high altitude
  • Two flight attendants and other passengers tried to restrain him, though he wouldn’t give in, and even hit a passenger in the head with a dessert wine bottle
  • As passengers continued to try and detain him, he punched several people in the face, and kept trying to open the exit
  • A flight attendant smashed two wine bottles over his head in an attempt to stop him, and one even broke over his head; he didn’t seem impacted, and simply responded with “do you know who I am?”
  • A passenger got him in a headlock, though he managed to get out; eventually enough passengers assisted so that they could get zip ties on him, and then they held him down until the plane landed in Seattle

I mean, seriously, take a look at what the galley looked like on landing:

The passenger is in custody, and faces up to a $250,000 fine and 20 years in prison.

A big kudos to the crew and passengers who stepped in. Clearly something wasn’t right in this guy’s head, so hopefully he gets the help he needs.

But seriously, wow, what a situation…

  1. Should be charged with attempted mass murder of 200+ souls. If he got that door open ten all would have perished with him

  2. Serious question. If someone tries to do something stupid like that, does it really give you free reign to do whatever you want to the guy?

    I know they want to subdue him, but that gives someone Carte Blanche to smash a wine bottle over him?

    He obviously can’t open the door due to pressurization, I question the need to try and kill him.

  3. That employee will be fired

    when I worked at AA, I witnessthe case of a very smart girl who just gave away a pass to a friend and a similar event happened
    I think she was a VP or director. not sure now, it was in the late 90s

    She was fired, I felt so bad for her but that is the rule.

    I only gave my passes to my parents and brothers. Period. Dont give them out period

  4. No first class. It’s called Delta One, but it’s business class.
    That’s what probably confused the officers.

  5. @Michael Karpiel- Unless he was a superhero, there is no possible way for him to open the door. When the cabin is pressurized and the aircraft is at cruising altitude, you’d need to apply a force of around 3-4 tons to open the door.

  6. @Bryan t
    Not every passenger knows about cabin pressure. They see another passenger try to open the door. They think it was dangerous and might endager the aircraft and all passenger. Plus, FA request help.

    Its a do or die situation. Rather than me dying, let’s just kill the troublemaker first.

  7. “I know they want to subdue him, but that gives someone Carte Blanche to smash a wine bottle over him?

    He obviously can’t open the door due to pressurization, I question the need to try and kill him.”

    Yes, it does gove them carte blanche. He is attempting something that could kill everyone on board. Yes, he couldnt open the door, but in the state he was in the door was not the only risk. I.E, You failed to shoot me with your single shot gun, but maybe you pull a knife.

  8. The wine bottles by the FA are melodramatic. Flight crew should have known the door wasn’t an issue.

    Let him fail then get him when he backs away.

  9. Not sure about specific union contracts, but most with companies, you are responsible for the behavior of your buddy pass guest, and it is a terminable offense if they don’t.

    My bet is that the mom is getting fired

  10. The cocaine packet he was smuggling in his stomach probably burst open, and he went into a psychosis.
    The other Sam is a moron for suggesting SSRI.

  11. You guys acting like they overreacted was crazy. What if the guy grabbed the cart and tried slamming it in the door or the door to the cockpit? I am sure they tried to subdue him without that first. Read the article he even punched people in the face before they used the wine bottles. He probably was on something so they needed something like that to give them the upper hand. How many people can he punch in the face before you guys say it’s okay to use the wine bottles?

  12. @sam SSRIs? Antidepressants? I didn’t realize they had those effects…I assumed this was street drugs of some sort.

  13. @Bryan t & @Greg – clearly you didn’t read the complaint. Hudek hit people with a wine bottle first. And he was repeatedly punching people (including to the face and head) before they tried to subdue him by hitting him with the wine bottles. The passenger was extremely combative and even with multiple other passengers and flight attendants attempting to subdue him he still had the upper hand. From the report the force was justified.

  14. Suggesting the staff memeber loses their job is a bit harsh as it’s unlikely they knew his condition
    American carriers’ buddy pass system is out of hand
    European carriers impose stricter restrictions on staff travel and often “friends ” must travel with the employee and only the spouse or parents are permitted to travel alone.
    Buddy passes are seemingly offered to all and sundry in the US, with apparently no restrictions with travellers seemingly unaware of how they should behave, dress etc and the fact they travel subject to space and have the absolute lowest priority.
    From the description , this guy had mental health issues so it would have happened had he been travelling on a regular ticket
    However, potentially he should be prosecuted, fined and requested to pay all diversion costs. These are likely to run into hundreds of thousands so it’s unlikely he would be able to afford it

  15. As per the Seattle Times ( ):

    “One flight attendant later reported that the door could have opened if it was fully disarmed at the altitude they were flying over the northwest end of Vancouver Island, B.C.”

    Shortly after takeoff, the low altitude would not have prevented him from opening the door.

  16. @Victoria: Ignore Sam. He’s either a troll or a conspiracy nut. This wasn’t SSRIs. To put up a fight like that the guy would have to be on something illegal. Common things being common, he probably did cocaine in the airplane lavatory.

  17. @[email protected]@greg
    remember 9/11? hammer the bastard that wants to mess with the plane. that’s what we learned, right? i am amazed that some people want to get into the pressurization defense. beat the threat until Immobilized. is that so tough?
    what’s your point? who cares? if you were on the plane and theretened, would you think differently or still be as vacuous?

  18. Brian t–if someone is dumb enough to try to open a hatch mid-flight, there’s no telling what else that idiot may try to do. I’ll take the safety of every passenger and crew member first in such circumstances, and damn the consequences to the obviously unhinged idiot. I have no problem with anything anyone else did to try and protect themselves and everyone else on board.

  19. What an absolute horror. Can we focus for two seconds on the crew and the other passengers, who were heroic? Can we think about the other passengers in Delta One — were any of them on their honeymoon, or a long-planned trip, or just enjoying all those miles they had saved up … and then Joseph Hudek IV causes this horrific train wreck … oh and when eventually did this delayed flight finally land in Beijing? Did passengers miss their connections? And how many were traumatized after having seen this nut job whacked over the head multiple times with wine bottles? How many had flashbacks to 9/11 wondering if this guy was trying to take the plane down?

    And so on.

  20. As much as I love flying, that is my biggest fear! Some psycho somehow is able to open the doors at cruising altitude!!

  21. Typical Chinese wealthy/political powerful jerk. I will give you that.
    From another Chinese

  22. Also terrifying is he did manage to get the door lever to disarm position. Once the aircraft was at low enough altitude to negate pressurization, he could have possibly opened the door and potentially thrown someone out of it. This was an exceptionally serious incident. Throw the book at him.

  23. The mom MIGHT be terminated from Delta. Depends on her performance, seniority, union and legal representations ………… Just a ballpark estimate based on the son being 23 that she is in her 40s and has about 20 yrs seniority. Hard to say.

  24. Disgraceful behavior.

    I’m a very mild person and i’m normally very chilled out. But if that was happening on my flight, within seconds I would be up and helping the flight crew to bring that person down.

    In those moments I don’t care about human rights or should I injure the person, the moment that person decided to go mental is the moment they lost that right in my view by trying to kill 200 + people.

    Yes I know that doors cannot open in flight, but that’s not the point. What if he did start doing something else, someone like this needs to be stopped.

  25. Flight attendant did a good job, but next time use a bottle of Jack Daniels instead of wine, until the bottle or something else break.

  26. “The attack happened after Hudek is accused of trying to open the exit door. Prosecutors say he managed to turn the lever of the door by 90 degrees, which is enough to disarm it.”
    This answers all questions, if the FAs and passengers were allowed to treat him like they did. I cannot tell you the answrr under US law (there are many US issues us Europeans do not understand), but the answer from a continental european judge is: OF COURSE they were allowed to stop him this way.

  27. Chilangoflyer, as an airline captain, I can confirm that its by law all in the pic’s (captain) power to instuct everyone on board (crew and pax) how to behave. The pic can ask any crew or pax to assist if someone not follow order. Not to comply with the pic’s orders is in the US a federal offense, thats why the FBI and not the local police shows up.

  28. The guy was a danger to all on board. Those who assisted the flight crew are heros.

  29. @jnrfalcon

    i am sorry to you, but you are even far below the infimum limit of the Chinese IQ based on what you said

  30. Mark, the captain cannot order anyone to break the law. The use of force itself has to be justified for the captain to order it. That said, in this case I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be lawful use of force – it certainly would be lawful in the UK. The distinction is important though because it wouldn’t be lawful to smash a bottle over the head of somebody if they were ‘just’ smoking on board contrary to the captains directions, where if they were trying to set things in the plane on fire then it would.

  31. Oh…I just noticed the guy reporting is a CNN reporter. The Donald teaches us that this is fake news, so I’m not sure if I believe this story…

  32. News article (Fake or Not Fake):

    “He’s a great kid, he’s a real good guy; he works hard, saves his money, I don’t know what happened,” Joseph Hudek said.

    The grandfather says Hudek was heading to Beijing to visit a friend and says the 23-year-old has flown all his life with no issues.

    “This is so out of character of him, I can’t believe it,” Hudek said.

    The grandfather says Hudek’s mom is also an employee with Delta.

    Lucky… lived in the Tampa area for while…just a good person under the influence of street drugs!

  33. Wow there was a First Class seat open for a pass rider? First is always full. I haven’t sat in a First Class seat in 5 years!

  34. Um, yes it gives them Carte Blanche. Wine bottle over the head, hot coffee to the face, yes.
    Remember 9/11?! His next move could have been toward the cockpit. He could have been a distraction to allow other terrorists to make their move. Not saying he’s a terrorist, but in this situation you don’t know that for sure at the time. So, yes, you take him down.
    They didn’t do this solely because he tried to open the door, they did it because he continued to fight to do so. Article states he hit a passenger over the head with a bottle. They were over the pacific, you diffuse any situation as quickly as possible. And clearly this was only going to happen by physical force.

  35. @Steve. Yes, basically the law is the same most over the world, as the Tokyo convention of 1963 is governing this issue. That convention is signed by almost all countries in the world and each country has thus made the same laws. So the law is the same in the US, UK, Russia, etc etc.
    The commander has the authority over everyone on board, he may take crew members or passengers in custody if they are believed to interfere, or is interfering, with the safety of the aircraft.
    He may order crew to assist in upholding his orders and he may request passengers assistance. Basically he is the sheriff on board. His authority is above law enforcement officers on board.

    Of coarse, the actions must be justifiable. But breaking a bottle over the head over someone that is clearly out of control and when life of other people is in danger, is in many cases absolutely justifiable.
    Just like in your home, if you got a gun and someone try to stab you with a knife, if you shoot to kill, to save your life, most likely it is self defense and legal. Unless lesser action clearly would have solved the situation.

  36. Jeesh, I can’t believe people are questioning the use of wine bottles to subdue this man. He was showing no signs of relenting before passengers had to get involved and they used what they had at hand to subdue him so they could put on the much-needed fisti-cuffs. Surely if he’d been on the ground and was similarly threatening a police officer, he’d be long dead. It’s not as if a bunch of security guards knocked out his teeth for simply refusing to give up a seat for which he had already paid.

  37. Some drug induced psychosis. I remember episodes, from back when I was an EMT, these guys can mobilize incredible force, and it can take 6 or 8 people to hold them down. Not unlikely that he won’t remember a thing, so questioning him will likely go nowhere.

  38. Where is the “Air Marshal”???? I thought every flight has a onboard plain clothes federal officer armed and able to keep a terrorist from hi jacking the plane or something like this from happening….. Let me guess, budget or unable to hire enough people so they are understaffed? Just another decay in our system, when you think its setup properly, but in fact it is not….

  39. Ten to one the cause was illicit drugs.

    @John H, @Khabardar Singh – there are not air marshals on every flight. That would be a staffing impossibility. Correct me if I’m wrong about this on international flights.

  40. @steve @ mark @chilangoflyer

    What if someone were to take the broken wine glass and killed him? Would that have been self defense ?

  41. @Justin H I think most juries would be rather lenient if someone or the group ended up taking that person’s life.

    I’m just glad they were able to secure him even though there were a lot of injuries to many.

  42. Reading this and wondering aren’t Air Marshals supposed to be in each flight that comes or goes from the USA?

  43. Lucky sperm club fail. The the mother be fired. Delta needs to re-examine how it “upgrades” non-rev buddy pass dependents. Shameful. Surely Delta will also have to defend multiple lawsuits over this.

  44. Brian,

    Of course it’s justified, 100%. I am glad there are those willing to do what needs to be done when leafeaters like yourself are worried about the feelings of the criminal or terrorist. And obviously I spelled your name wrong because I have no respect for you or your opinion.

  45. 45 minutes into a long haul flight the flight attendants would have had the oven on in the business class galley and could have subdued the passenger with a hot oven rack.

  46. Just wait a few days… he and his mom will sue the airline for miliions… just because he was subdued with a force and tied with ziplaces, eventhough all employees knew he was not able to open doors… and cause she lost her job… i’m sure there are lawyers in the US who will be favourable to pursue this…

    My question is different? Doesn’t every flight on US airline have an air marshall? I’m sure they are trained to subdue people with the use of non-lethal means…

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