San Francisco-bound flight diverted due to unruly passenger

Byby Sergio Quintana via KGO logo
Tuesday, January 3, 2017
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Cellphone video shows an unruly passenger on a San Francisco-bound flight daring the flight crew to turn the plane around and they did.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- An unruly passenger threatened his seat mates and dared the flight crew to turn the plane around and they did.

The plane flew out of Sydney, Australia Sunday and was headed to San Francisco. Somewhere over Tonga, the pilot announced they would turn around and head to Aukland.

The passengers were supposed to arrive in San Francisco Sunday, but because they were diverted to New Zealand and had to stay overnight they arrived in San Francisco on Monday morning.

In cellphone video shot by passenger Neil Kay, you can see the man losing his temper with a flight attendant. "I'm yelling at you? I'm not yelling, you want to hear me f--king yell?" he said.

This was an incident that started several minutes into the flight. The unruly passenger was not happy about sitting between two other men. "I think they were briefly talking to one another, like 'hey can you pass me the pen so I can fill out the paper work' or 'hey we're going home finally' and that was it, he got really upset that they were talking over him," Kay said.

It was a full flight, so the man couldn't be relocated to another section on the plane, but in the video you can see he did switch to an aisle seat on the same row.

However, that didn't stop him from acting out. "Basically threatened the other two passengers. Told them if they say one more word, that you know, don't say another word," Kay said.

That's when the flight crew intervened again. "Do you want me to call the captain and have him turn the airplane around?" a flight attendant asked.

"Do you know how cool it would be to have the airplane turned around? You're going to do that? You'd do that? I'm being so impolite aren't i fat a--."

The captain decided to turn around and head to New Zealand. When they landed two hours later, the man was escorted off the plane by police.

A spokesperson provided a short statement saying: "The flight was diverted due to a badly behaved passenger, a 42-year-old foreign national. He was arrested on arrival in Auckland and has been referred to immigration New Zealand."

The crew couldn't continue the flight after they landed because their work hours would have expired, so United had put the whole flight up in a hotel in New Zealand for the night.