United Passengers Sleep on Terminal Floor After Diversion
Photo via Twitter
A week after United Airlines passengers were forced to bed down in unheated military barracks due to a diversion, another group of diverted United flyers had to spend the night in uncomfortable conditions, NBC News reported.
Flight UA971 took off from Rome, bound for Chicago on Saturday, but made an unscheduled stop in Belfast, Northern Ireland around 7 p.m. local time, where a disruptive passenger was removed from the Boeing 777 and arrested.
A spokesman for the Police Service of Northern Ireland said the accused male passenger was in custody at an Antrim police station in but did not provide any other details.
Flyer Rick Sliter, 42, from San Diego told NBC News that other passengers said the man had apparently been "extremely verbally abusive" to a woman even before they boarded in Rome.
"While he was on the flight he had constantly gone to the bathroom to change his shirt four or five times and was staring at people in a creepy way. My understanding is that an air marshal notified the flight attendants who spoke with the captain who chose to land," Sliter said to NBC News.
But this was just the first act in Flight UA971’s ordeal. Right after they refueled to continue the journey sans the disruptive individual, the flight crew maxed out their FAA work hours.
“We were taxying out to leave, refueled, we were on the main runway — then the captain announced it was two minutes over the time they could do time in cockpit due to federal work regulations. People thought he was joking,” Sliter said.
And with the lack of local hotel rooms, all 269 passengers spent the night on the terminal floor. "The captain indicated that they had tried extremely hard and called multiple places but that there were not many hotel rooms available," according to Sliter.
Traveling with his 70-year-old mom and two children aged 8 and 10, Sliter said to NBC News that he didn’t understand why airline staff didn’t move quicker to get the stranded passengers on their way.
"I fully understand the compliance with FAA regulations but there was zero sense of urgency. Our bags are still on the plane. I can't imagine why they didn't a different crew in here as quickly as possible."
A United Airlines spokesman told NBC News: "United Flight 971, from Rome to Chicago, diverted to Belfast because of a disruptive passenger. Law enforcement met the aircraft and the passenger was removed.
"The crew then reached its maximum duty time, leading to the cancellation of the flight. We understand the inconvenience this causes our passengers and will accommodate them on a flight from Belfast to Chicago today at 4 p.m. local time."
More by Michael Isenbek
Get Travel Deals and Travel News
Recent Travel Opinions