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‘Disruptive’ passenger forces Israel-bound United flight back to Newark after 3 hours

FILE: A Boeing 737-700 United Airlines flight from West Palm Beach, Florida, is one of the first planes to land at the new $2.7 billion Terminal A at Newark Liberty International Airport in Elizabeth, New Jersey, on Thursday, January 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)

(NEXSTAR) – A “disruptive” passenger caused a United flight crew to turn a Tel Aviv-bound plane around Sunday, delaying the rest of the passengers for hours, United said.

Flight 90, which departed early that morning from Newark, turned back after about three hours into the 10-hour flight, website Flight Radar 24 shows.

The U-turn happened after an unidentified man got into a confrontation with the flight crew and a shouting match ensued, a passenger told Israeli media outlet YNet.

The eyewitness said the man was waiting for the bathroom and decided to sit down in one of the seats designated for flight attendants.

“Crew members told him that if he did not return to his seat, the plane would be turned back to New York,” the witness said, adding that the man appeared not to believe them, ridiculing the crew members.

She told YNet that she was surprised when the flight did turn around because there was no announcement, adding “We just noticed it on the map showing our flight path and when we landed, we saw the police waiting for the plane.”

United confirmed to Nexstar that law enforcement was waiting at the terminal, where officers removed the passenger. Video shows a man in jeans and a dark, long-sleeved shirt being escorted off the plane as other passengers can be heard murmuring, one person asking, “What did he do?” Some could be seen recording with their cellphones; one woman tiredly rests her head on her hand and watches him step off the plane.

A Twitter user named Jeff Hunt posted video and an image of the plane’s flight track, tweeting that his first flight from Washington D.C. was canceled because of weather, so he took a train for three hours to leave out of Newark.

“Flight delayed 2.5hrs due to weather. 4hrs into flight, unruly passenger requires return to Newark,” Hunt tweeted. “Thanks, bro.”

Hunt told Insider that the man later claimed that he hadn’t been physical and that United overreacted. Despite the collective frustration, Hunt said the man hung around the displaced passengers for hours “pleading his case.”

The airline told Nexstar in a statement that it was ultimately able to rebook customers onto a new flight that departed that evening.

United didn’t immediately respond to additional questions about what happened to the passenger after he was removed from the flight.


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