United Airlines has confirmed that a plane bound for Tel Aviv, Israel, was forced to return and return to Newark after “inappropriate behavior” by two passengers who upgraded themselves to Business Class.
The Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner departed Newark around 11:24 p.m. Thursday evening, but returned in flight about an hour just as the plane entered Canadian airspace.
Witnesses aboard United Airlines flight UA90 say they heard a commotion between two passengers and flight attendants, prompting the captain to divert the flight and return to Newark.
Israel’s Channel 12 News reported that the passengers started a “rampage” and started a “riot”. Flight attendants are said to have challenged the couple after they upgraded themselves to Business Class.
Roi Lotan, who was a passenger on the flight, said the plane was “half empty” so the two passengers would have tried for a chance to win a free upgrade. When flight attendants saw them, they were asked to prove that they had paid to sit in the Business Class seats.
In a statement to Israel’s Kan News, a United spokesperson said the airline “will not tolerate any inappropriate attitude”.
The diversion of United flight UA90 comes just a day after an American Airlines flight bound for London was forced to return to Miami after a First Class passenger allegedly refused to wear a face mask.
The passenger was removed from the flight for refusing to comply with the federal face mask mandate and will not be allowed to fly on American Airlines pending the outcome of an investigation into the incident.
According to civil aviation regulators, the cost of rerouting an aircraft due to an unruly passenger can run as high as $108,000. This takes into account fuel costs, airport charges, personnel costs, compensation for delayed passengers and diversion costs.
The two passengers who clashed with flight attendants on a United Airlines flight to Tel Aviv have been removed by police, but it is not known whether they have been arrested. The Justice Department has prioritized prosecuting criminal charges against unruly airline passengers.
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