Video of the incident shows the unnamed woman squaring up to the female member of cabin crew and appearing to punch her.
“You shouldn’t have touched me. You pushed me,” the woman is heard saying repeatedly, while wearing her mask underneath her chin, rather than over her nose and mouth.
The incident occurred on a flight from Miami to Atlanta on 20 October, and was allegedly sparked after the passenger refused to wear her mask correctly.
Two journalists on board the flight posted about the experience on social media.
Reporter Katty Kay tweeted that the plane was forced to return to the gate because one traveller would not put on a face covering.
“Why get on the plane in the first place if you’re going to refuse to follow the safety rules? Would he also refuse to wear a seatbelt? Or start smoking on board?” she said, adding that Delta crew handled the situation “very responsibly” and with “remarkable patience and good humour”.
Miami police boarded the aircraft and removed the woman and those she was travelling with, Ms Kay reported, but the flight was delayed further still because the passengers would not leave the jetway.
“[The captain] says he’s never seen anything like it in 33 years of flying!” said Ms Kay.
#mustwatch Ughhhh this literally happens right in my face. All I want to do is get home at this point! How you mad cause your boyfriend caused the WHOLE flight to be turned around & delayed cause he don’t want to put his seat belt on? and they been asking y’all to get off the flight for the past hour. ( then had the nerve to say they fly 1st class flights 🥴) You’re GOING TO JAIL 🗣this is so ghetto 🤦🏽♀️ #delta P.S: the flight was supposed to leave at 9:00 🙄 “To use this content, media outlets must contact email@example.com”
A post shared by VENDOR PLUG QUEEN (@iamlaurynengland) on Oct 19, 2020 at 7:38pm PDT
BBC journalist Suzanne Kianpour, who was also on the flight, reposted a video of the altercation and said: “A passenger on this Delta flight refuses policy to wear mask. Then won’t get off plane. Then hits flight attendant. Announcement that Miami Dade police on their way.”
Passenger Lauryn England also shared footage of the incident, which shows the woman slapping or hitting the member of cabin crew, before other passengers attempt to get between the pair.
Here’s what happened on our @delta flight from #Miami to #Atlanta tonight after a passenger refused to wear a mask as per policy and then gets into altercation with flight attendant. Video via @kingcoreythefirst on IG pic.twitter.com/TBBYq1VCBb
— Suzanne Kianpour (@KianpourWorld) October 20, 2020
“There is nothing more important than the safety of our people and customers,” a Delta spokesperson told the New York Post.
“That’s why two customers who did not comply with crew safety instructions were asked to deplane flight 1997 this evening.”
The Independent has contacted Delta for further comment.