Two passengers decided to help themselves to empty business class seats on a half-full United Airlines flight Thursday from Newark, New Jersey to Tel Aviv, Israel, according to reports. When they refused to leave the seats, the plane returned to Newark.
The incident came one day after an American Airlines flight Wednesday from Miami to London turned around when a passenger refused to wear a face mask.
On Thursday night’s flight to Tel Aviv, two Israeli passengers claimed the empty business class seats about 90 minutes into the trip, The Times of Israel reported.
An argument ensued when the flight crew asked the passengers to show their tickets for the seats. When the passengers refused to leave the seats, the Boeing 787-10 returned to Newark and the flight was canceled.
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“There was room so they probably said to themselves, ‘why not come’ (into business class),” passenger Roi Lotan told Israeli Channel 12 TV. “A riot started. … We landed back in New York, after we left for Israel.”
United Airlines said that Flight 90 returned “due to disruptive passengers on board,” in a statement to USA TODAY. “Law enforcement officials met the aircraft upon landing.”
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police can be seen on the plane in video shown on Channel 12.
The airline and the Port Authority did not immediately say whether the passengers were charged in the incident. The flight had 123 customers and a crew of 11, United said.
United provided passengers with hotel accommodations, meal vouchers and “made arrangements for customers to complete their journeys,” the statement said.
The United Airlines overnight flight had set off just after 11 p.m. ET Thursday for Tel Aviv, where it had been scheduled to arrive on Friday afternoon. Instead, it landed back at Newark Liberty International Airport at 1:49 a.m. ET Friday, according to flight trackers.
Unruly passenger reports hit record highs last year and the Federal Aviation Administration has reported 151 incidents of unruly passengers so far this year – more than half (92) related to face masks.
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