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Unruly Brit Passenger Who Forced Diversion of United Flight to Bangor Ordered to Pay $20,000 in Restitution to Airline

Unruly Brit Passenger Who Forced Diversion of United Flight to Bangor Ordered to Pay $20,000 in Restitution to Airline

a plane on the tarmac

An unruly passenger who forced the pilots of a transatlantic United Airlines flight to Newark to divert to Bangor Airport in Maine, after getting into an argument with his girlfriend before threatening to “mess up the plane” and pushing the flight purser into a corner has been ordered to pay the airline more than $20,000 in restitution.

Briton Alexander MacDonald from Chelmsford, England, pleaded guilty to one count of interference with flight following the incident aboard flight UA883 from London Heathrow to Newark on March 1.

MacDonald has been held in federal custody since his arrest and had faced a maximum possible sentence of 20 years imprisonment but has been sentenced to time served and has been handed over to Customs and Border Protection to be deported back to the UK.

The US District Court for Maine also ordered the 30-year-old suspect to pay United Airlines a total of $20,638 in restitution to cover the cost of diverting the flight to Bangor Airport.

In the criminal complaint against MacDonald, prosecutors claimed flight attendants were initially alerted to the suspect after he was heard loudly arguing with his girlfriend. The flight purser “kindly” asked MacDonald to lower his voice, but after initially complying, he started yelling loudly again.

MacDonald then allegedly started yelling at another flight attendant, and when the flight purser intervened, MacDonald placed his hands on the crew member’s shoulders and pushed them into a corner.

Another passenger helped the crew to restrain MacDonald in flexicuffs, but they struggled to restrain him in a seat, resulting in the Captain determining that the flight couldn’t safely continue to Newark and that MacDonald “represented a threat to the aircraft”.

The Captain declared a Level 2 unruly passenger incident, which included physically abusive behaviour, and diverted to Bangor Airport, where local law enforcement took MacDonald into custody.

Matt’s take

Considering that the maximum possible sentence for interference with flight crew under code 49 U.S. Code § 46504 is 20 years imprisonment plus a $250,000 fine, MacDonald got off pretty lightly, although he likely won’t ever be allowed to enter the United States again in the future.

The amount of restitution that MacDonald was ordered to pay is in line with similar incidents, including the case of two other Britons who forced the diversion of a TUI Airways flight from Cancun to Manchester, England, earlier this year.

In that case, the pilots also diverted to Bangor as it was the last easily accessible diversion airport before the flight made its transatlantic crossing. The two suspects were also sentenced to time served and ordered to pay $26,589 each in restitution to the airline.

The restitution amount doesn’t necessarily reflect the exact cost incurred by the airline for the diversion, although in the case of United flight 883, the plane was able to depart Bangor soon after MacDonald was arrested, and the flight arrived in Newark with a delay of just two hours.

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