United Airlines has confirmed that a plane bound for Tel Aviv, Israel was forced to turn back and return to Newark after “inappropriate behavior” by two passengers who self-upgraded themselves to Business Class.
The Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner departed Newark at around 11:24 pm on Thursday evening but turned back around an hour into the flight just as the plane entered Canadian air space.
Witnesses aboard United Airlines flight UA90 say they heard a commotion between two passengers and flight attendants which resulted in the Captain making the decision to divert the flight and return to Newark.
Israel’s Channel 12 News reported the passengers went on a “rampage” and started a “riot”. Flight attendants allegedly challenged the pair after they self-upgraded themselves to Business Class.
Roi Lotan who was a passenger on the flight said the plane was ‘half empty” so the two passengers might have tried to chance a free upgrade. When flight attendants spotted them, they were asked to provide proof that they had paid to sit in the Business Class seats.
In a statement provided to Israel’s Kan News, a spokesperson for United said the airline was “not tolerant of any inappropriate behavior”.
The diversion of United flight UA90 comes just a day after an American Airlines flight bound for London was forced to turn back 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 has been barred from flying with American Airlines pending the outcome of an investigation into the incident.
According to civil aviation regulators, the cost to divert a plane due to an unruly passenger can be as much as $108,000. This takes into account fuel costs, airport charges, staff costs, compensation for delayed passengers and rerouting costs.
The two passengers who clashed with flight attendants on the United Airlines flight to Tel Aviv were removed by law enforcement but it is not known whether they were arrested. The Department of Justice has made it a priority to pursue criminal allegations against unruly airline passengers.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.