An American Airlines pilot has been arrested in Brazil, accused of assaulting a colleague minutes before a flight from São Paulo to Miami was due to take off in the early hours of Thursday morning.
The flight, which was immediately cancelled, leaving passengers stranded, was scheduled to depart at 1am from São Paulo International airport in Guarulhos.
The pilot, who has not been named, is alleged to have pushed a operations agent and grabbed her around her neck following a disagreement over the alignment of the finger - a tunnel used by passengers that connects the terminal to the plane.
An American Airlines pilot was arrested Thursday morning after assaulting a ground agent at São Paulo International Airport in Brazil. Above, a picture of an American Airlines plane at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas
The 59-year-old captain, who is believed to have worked for the airline for 32 years, has had his passport withheld by police and has been charged under Brazil’s penal code, article 129 with 'offending the bodily integrity or health of another'.
If found guilty the aviator could face a prison sentence of between three months to one year.
Passengers reacted angrily to the delay and were seen complaining furiously to airline staff over the lack of information.
American Airlines said travelers have been put up in hotels and given meal vouchers as the airline tries to rearrange and accommodate them on other flights throughout the day.
According to federal police, just before passengers boarded the jet, the co-pilot on flight AA 930 went to adjust the alignment of the tunnel entrance when the pilot apparently intervened to say the fixture was in the wrong position.
The operations agent, aged 41, whose name has not been released, and who has worked for American Airlines for 14 years, allegedly responded that the connection was 'correctly aligned'.
Eyewitnesses reported that the pilot went to speak to the airline worker who 'inadvertently' stepped on the his foot.
The captain allegedly said to the agent 'do not to touch me', to which the employee reportedly responded that she had 'not touched him'.
Witnesses claimed the pilot then pushed the victim and grabbed her by the neck. An airport maintenance worker who was on the scene at the time saw the altercation and intervened.
In his defense, the captain claimed the airport attendant tried to punch him. However, the co-pilot has not confirmed this version of events.
In a statement to police, the victim said the 'pilot had pushed her and grabbed her around the neck'.
American Airlines refused to comment on the specifics of the case but said they were 'taking this incident extremely seriously'.
In a statement the company apologized for the problem and said: 'Last night, before boarding AA 930 American Airlines flight from São Paulo (GRU) to Miami (MIA), two crew members were engaged in a discussion in the tunnel that connects a platform to the plane.
'The authorities are now in charge of the case and providing support to staff members.
'This is a legal investigation and we are cooperating fully with the authorities
'Passengers are being accommodated on other flights throughout the day. American Airlines has provided hotel accommodations and meal vouchers. We apologize to our customers for the problem.'
The pilot has been released and is due to appear at a special criminal court in Guarulhos before the end of this week.