A group of off-duty U.S. marines helped subdue an unruly passenger who tried to kick out a window aboard a Virgin Atlantic flight from London Heathrow to Los Angeles on Tuesday.
The violent passenger forced the pilots to divert to Salt Lake City, Utah where the suspect was hauled off the Boeing 787 Dreamliner by local law enforcement. The unnamed passenger remains in custody and the U.S. Attorney’s Office is expected to press charges later on Wednesday.
Witnesses who were onboard Virgin Atlantic flight VS141 say the passenger initially caused a disruption an hour into the 10-hour flight but it wasn’t until nearly eight hours later that the flight was diverted because his behavior became so bad.
The drunk passenger, who is believed to be British and traveling with his American partner and child, allegedly “kicked off” with flight attendants on at least three separate occasions.
Flight attendants had warned the man about his behavior and at one point he nodded off before waking and throwing a violent tantrum. Passengers who witnessed the outburst claim the man tried to kick out one of the aircraft windows before a group of U.S. Marines “piled on him” and helped flight attendants restrain him.
The man was handcuffed and strapped to a seat at the back of the Economy cabin as the pilots landed the aircraft at Salt Lake City Airport.
The aircraft landed in Utah at around 3:30 pm and was immediately sent to the remote southwest de-icing pad where law enforcement surrounded the plane and hauled the suspect off.
There were no immediate reported injuries, although it has been claimed that a mother aboard the flight dropped her baby owing to the man’s violent behavior.
A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said its cabin crew were “highly trained” to deal with unruly passengers. “Due to a disruptive passenger onboard flight VS141 operating from London Heathrow to Los Angeles on Tuesday 26 July, the aircraft diverted to Salt Lake City to be met by police authorities,” the airline said in a statement.
“The safety and wellbeing of our customers and crew is always our top priority and we don’t tolerate any behaviour that compromises this.”
The man faces a possible charge of interference with flight crew members which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment, plus a $25,000 fine.
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.