United Flight UA971 was forced to make an unscheduled landing in Belfast while flying from Rome to Chicago after one passenger started causing a scene.
A passenger onboard the 269-person flight named Rick Sliter explained to MailOnline Travel, “From what I heard the guy was really being a nut job, cursing people out, staring at people and changing his shirt four or five times in the bathroom.”
Another passenger, Mike Rafferty, explained that, “It took a while to land because we had to dump a lot of fuel over the ocean. After we landed five or six cops came on and peacefully escorted the guy off.”
The disorderly man, a citizen of both Italy and the U.S., was arrested for endangering the safety of a plane and common assault. The plane refueled and passengers re-boarded but the flight was suddenly canceled during taxiing.
Sliter explained, “Just as we were taxiing to the runway the captain indicated he had missed the window by a minute or two and because of the time that they would be in the air it would violate the standards.”
The plane’s crew was no longer able to finish the flight because their duty hour allotment would be exceeded. The rest of the passengers then had to pay the price for the man’s tantrum as they had to wait in the Belfast International Airport for over 20 hours before they could take off for Chicago again.
Sliter praised the airport staff for their kindness but wasn’t happy with United’s handling of the situation, saying, “That, to me, is pretty inexplicable. There certainly wasn’t an atmosphere of trying to expedite things to make sure we could hit a window. When the captain acknowledged that [the plane could not take off] half the cabin thought he was joking.”
Passengers were forced to either sleep on the airport floor or enjoy vouchers to the one cafe that stayed open. A United Airlines spokesperson told Mailonline Travel, “We understand the inconvenience this causes our customers and will refund their Rome to Chicago flight as well as offer the choice of a travel certificate or miles for our MileagePlus loyalty program.”