Flight Circles Back After Passengers Decide to Upgrade

Crew says 2 people became disruptive after they were ordered back to coach
By Stephanie Mojica,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 23, 2022 12:45 PM CST
Flight Circles Back After Passengers Decide to Upgrade
A United Airlines flight headed to Israel returned to Miami after two passengers refused to give up business class seats on a half-full flight.   (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

(Newser) – It seems logical to claim empty seats on a half-full flight, but United Airlines didn't think so and turned a transatlantic flight around on Thursday when two passengers refused to return to their original seats, per USA Today. About 90 minutes into a flight from Newark to Tel Aviv, two coach passengers moved to empty business class seats. When they wouldn't move back, the plane returned to Newark. Flight 90 was near the US-Canada border at the time, per People.

The airline said the passengers were disruptive and had law enforcement officials meet them at the Newark airport. It is unclear whether the passengers, who are from Israel, will be charged with any crimes. A passenger interviewed by Israeli journalists claims a "riot" started when the passengers refused to give up their self-upgraded seats, USA Today reports. There were 123 passengers and 11 crew members on board. Once back in Newark, the other passengers were provided with alternate flight arrangements as well as hotel accommodations and meals.

There has been a growing trend of flights going back to their departure points over conflicts while flying the increasingly unfriendly skies. In this month alone, the Federal Aviation Administration has dealt with complaints about 151 problematic passengers. Over 60% of the complaints were related to passengers refusing to wear face masks. A day before the self-upgrading incident, an American Airlines flight departing Miami for London turned around after a passenger refused to wear a face mask. (The FAA crackdown on unruly passengers has included seeking fines when drinking was involved.)

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