An unruly passenger forced the pilots of a Delta Air Lines flight from Portland to Atlanta to make an emergency diversion to Salt Lake City after he started to act erratically and had to be restrained in flexicuffs by other passengers aboard the flight.
Harold James Jones of Kentucky has been charged with interference with the flight crew because of his behavior aboard Delta flight DL713 on Saturday, September 3. If found guilty, Jones faces a potential maximum sentence of 20 years in jail, plus a $20,000 fine.
Witnesses aboard the flight told law enforcement that Jones started to act erratically when he wouldn’t remain in his seat shortly after takeoff and ignored crew instructions according to an affidavit filed in a Utah court.
Jones told flight attendants he was feeling ill and they offered him ginger ale, but Jones started to force napkins into the air vent above him and shouted that HE was being poisoned while demanding to speak with the Captain and the FBI.
As Jones started to move from row to row and continuously ignored crew member instructions to sit down, flight attendants became so concerned about his behavior that they blocked the door to the flight deck with beverage carts in front of the First Class cabin.
He then started to climb over the seats into the First Class cabin prompting over passengers to intervene and help restrain him with flexicuffs around his wrists and ankles.
The Captain decided to make an emergency diversion to Salt Lake City where Jones was taken into custody by police, but the flight attendants were left so shaken by the incident that they were no longer able to continue working and Delta was forced to find a replacement crew and plane to complete the flight.
Jones reportedly told law enforcement that he does not suffer from mental health issues but he was showing signs of “methamphetamine intoxication”. Jones reportedly said that he had used Meth in the days leading up to his arrest and admitted to suffering “adverse behavioral reactions” to Meth.
Jones has been remanded into custody because he was deemed to pose a flight risk. Court documents show that Jones “has a violent criminal history”, including two reckless homicide charges related to DUIs, a homicide and burglary.
Passengers taking narcotics inflight has been on the rise for years, and it has become such a worrying trend that several major U.S. airlines now carry Narcan (naloxone), a powerful medical that quickly reverses the effects of an Opioid overdose, in their emergency medical kits.
Delta has stocked Narcan since 2017 when a passenger reportedly died from an overdose on one of its flights. United, Frontier and Alaska Airlines also stock Narcan.
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.