A commercial aircraft pilot on Tuesday was forced to land early in Salt Lake City, Utah, after a disruptive “drunk” passenger allegedly tried to kick the windows of the plane and fought several passengers, according to multiple reports.
Virgin Atlantic flight 141 had been heading from London’s Heathrow Airport to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) when the passenger became disruptive, forcing the pilot to divert from its intended flight path, a spokesperson for Virgin Atlantic told Fox News.
The unruly passenger, who wasn’t identified but is believed to be British, was “physically detained by other passenger and flight crew members” and was met by police upon arrival in Utah, according to the Salt Lake City Police Department.
The commercial flight then continued to LAX and landed about four hours after its scheduled arrival, the Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said. The airline apologized to passengers for the inconvenience.
“The safety and wellbeing of our customers and crew is always our top priority and we don’t tolerate any behavior that compromises this,” the spokesperson told Fox News.
“We always want our customers to have the best experience when they fly with us and our cabin crew are highly trained to deal with any individuals that may impact that experience for others.”
The aircraft company hasn’t specified the mid-air disturbance, but an eyewitness told UK tabloid The Sun that an altercation started about an hour into the flight, involving a man believed to be British.
“A passenger on board became unruly and fought several passengers while attempting to move towards the cockpit,” a law enforcement source told the paper.
“During the fight, a mum dropped her baby causing injury,” the source added. “They eventually got him under control and handcuffed the guy and diverted to Salt Lake City for police to enter the plane and take him into custody.”
It took “a couple of U.S. Marines” aboard the plane to cut his mid-air rampage short, the witness noted.
The man, who was reportedly traveling together with his family, is expected to be formally charged by a U.S. attorney on Wednesday.
Last year, unruly passenger behavior reached the worst on record in U.S. history, according to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) data.
In early 2021, the FAA adopted a “zero-tolerance policy” against unruly passengers after a surge in violent or disruptive behavior on flights. The policy has led to numerous hefty fines instead of warning letters or counseling that were used in previous policies.
The FAA said its zero-tolerance policy has decreased the rate of unruly passenger incidents by nearly 60 percent.
Last year, there were 5,981 reports of unruly passengers, with 1,113 investigations initiated. As of July 27, there have been 1,701 reports of unruly passengers, with 582 investigations initiated, according to FAA data.