Finally: Man Held Accountable for Messing With Planeload of Passengers, Whacking Crew

Last year a drunk passenger caused a diversion to Denver after bringing his own booze onboard and shouting “we’re all gonna die.”

After inconveniencing a plane full of passengers and costing the airline significant amounts in crew time and fuel you’d think there might be consequences… but you’d be wrong. Alaska Airlines described the matter simply as “a customer service issue.”

Earlier in the year A United flight from San Francisco to Sydney diverted to Auckland and passengers had to spend a day there because of a passenger who went off on a racist rant and threatened crew when he didn’t want to sit next to two Southeast Asians. He wasn’t charged.

Flight diversions happen all the time, sometimes for weather or mechanical issues and occasionally for passenger health reasons. But when a plane load of people have hours wasted, when an airline runs up its costs, and when crew safety is jeopardized by someone’s intentional behavior that person should be held responsible — both morally and as a deterrent.

So I think we can all feel good that justice is being served by a man being billed $97,817 for a Hawaiian Airlines flight diversion last year.

  • The man was traveling with his girlfriend and her kids to Hawaii. He was drinking before the flight back to New York JFK at the end of the trip.

  • He brought his own alcohol onboard to drink.

  • His girlfriend’s son reached out to a flight attendant for help, claiming that the man threatened the kids’ lives.

  • The flight attendant decided to separate him from the family. Fortunately there were empty seats so he could be moved. He didn’t like it though and “whacked her on the shoulder.”

  • He didn’t threaten the flight attendant any further. Instead he ” yelled, swore and threatened to punch his girlfriend in the face.”

Copyright: zhukovsky / 123RF Stock Photo

Passengers restrained the man. The pilot decided to return to Honolulu. And at $97,000 the man got off light being asked to pay only the costs of “fuel, maintenance, ground crew and costs associated with finding the passengers other flights.”

He wasn’t asked to cover “the $46,900 of meal vouchers Hawaiian Airlines handed out to delayed New York-bound passengers” or do anything to reimburse the plane load of passengers for their time and inconvenience.

His defense was that he didn’t “remember much” and he’s serving 3 years’ probation when he could have received “up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000.” Justice tempered with mercy.

Here’s the criminal complaint:

I much prefer the Hawaiian Airlines flight where a flight attendant — the reigning Mrs. Hawaii America — noticed a 97 year old and his family headed to the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor seemed upset. So she brainstormed a way to cheer them up.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I am wondering if he didnt get jail time because the FA did not press charges of assault and battery against him. Seems like he is only facing the charges from the airline. Had it been me, I would have made sure that assault and battery were added.
    I cant believe that he is getting away with a federal crime of interference of a flight crew!

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