A Southwest Airlines flight from San Diego to Chicago was diverted to Amarillo, Texas, after pilots reported that six passengers started swearing at flight attendants and making obscene gestures at passengers who tried to calm them down, authorities said.
One passenger aboard Southwest Flight 1522 on late Monday told CNN affiliate WGN that “they were fighting with the flight attendant because the flight attendant wouldn’t allow them have alcohol on the flight because they were already being too loud during the flight.”
She says that when she tried to intervene, some members of the group raised their middle finger at her and cursed.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for northern Texas, the criminal complaint states the men “initially refused to put their seat backs and tray tables up,” then began talking loudly and cursing as a flight attendant took their drink orders.
When a flight attendant asked them to talk more quietly, they “lunged forward in their seats and said, ‘We can do whatever we want on here,’ ” the U.S. Attorney’s news release said.
The six passengers allegedly lunged again after they were refused alcohol, accusing the flight attendants of being racist.
As the flight wore on, the federal prosecutor’s office claimed the men got even louder and more defiant as they repeatedly stood up, even trying to “incite other passengers to join their noncompliant behavior.”
Amarillo Police were alerted to the diversion, and when the plane landed, officers detained the six passengers. These men were held overnight in Amarillo pending possible federal charges of interfering with a flight crew, police Cpl. Jerry Neufeld said.
An expensive diversion
The International Air Transport Association says that from 2007 to 2013, airlines reported more than 28,000 incidents involving unruly passengers, and of those, more than 5,300 resulted in police action.
The association said flight diversions are extremely expensive and can cost airlines up to $200,000 per incident.
IATA says the airline industry is working to toughen its stance on passengers behaving badly, but says the challenge has been prosecuting alleged offenders.
The industry says that often, local authorities find that they lack jurisdiction to prosecute crimes that occur on interstate and international flights. However, representatives for IATA says airlines are working with lawmakers around the world to shore up international aviation laws when it comes to unruly passengers.