Passenger in handcuffs after being subdued by James Leigh.
Despite the billions of dollars invested in security since 9/11, James Leigh says the crew aboard the China Southern Airlines flight had no idea how to deal with the situation.
"They didn't have a clue what to do," Leigh said Tuesday. "It was basically up to me to play Sky Marshal."
"It was a really dangerous situation," he said. "I'm glad I was able to help and bring this guy under control, but who knows how it might have turned out?"
Low-cost foreign airlines like China Southern might not be training their aircrew to deal with volatile situations like the one that erupted on the flight Sunday from Guangzhou to Vancouver, Leigh fears.
"Considering all the billions that's been spent on security, it seems incredible that a guy like this could basically go berserk without the crew knowing what to do," Leigh said.
Trouble arose about seven hours into the 12-hour flight, when Leigh was awakened by the sound of a man shouting. "He was swinging at people, swearing, totally out of control, really nuts," Leigh said.
The flight attendants were not able to restrain the man, described as muscular and in his mid-20s. Leigh, who worked for private security firms in both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, didn't hesitate.
"I walked up, and took him down to the floor," Leigh said. "He was kicking and punching me pretty good, but we managed to get him in handcuffs."
Then, aircrew staff asked Leigh to sit beside the man for the duration of the flight.
"Every 10 minutes or so, he'd seem to get his energy back, and try to get up to go fight people again," Leigh said. "It was quite a struggle to keep him under control."
When the plane landed in Vancouver, the man was arrested by police. Abdul Zain Ali has been charged with disturbance, mischief, and assault. He made his first court appearance on Monday.
Leigh, who travels frequently to Asia, said the incident was deeply unsettling for everyone aboard.
"It looked like the guy was trying to get to the emergency exits and open the doors," Leigh said. "This all ended a lot better than it might have."