Here’s How Much ‘Unruly’ Passenger Owes Airline After Causing Plane Diversion


An “unruly and physically combative” United Airlines passenger is being forced to pay a steep penalty after his behavior caused an emergency landing, according to a press release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Maine, reviewed by USA Today.

30-year-old Englishman Alexander Michael Dominic MacDonald has been ordered to pay $20,638 in restitution fees to United Airlines after a March 1 incident on flight 883.

MacDonald was traveling with his girlfriend from London to Newark, NJ when, shortly after the flight departed at 8 a.m. local time, the flight crew was notified of an “unruly and physically combative” passenger.

It turned out to be MacDonald, who was “arguing loudly” with his girlfriend. When attendants “kindly asked him to lower his voice, as to not disturb the other passengers,” MacDonald initially complied; but moments later, they heard more “loud yelling” from MacDonald’s row.

Once again, the crew “tried to calm down” the irate passenger, but he proceeded to become “verbally and physically aggressive,” threatening to “mess up the plane,” according to the press release.

At this point, MacDonald, who witnesses said “appeared to be intoxicated,” put his hands on the shoulders of a flight attendant and backed them into a corner of the plane. Passengers and crew were able to restrain MacDonald, and determined that the flight “needed to be landed for the safety of the crew.”

The plane landed at Maine’s Bangor International Airport at around 10 a.m. local time, where MacDonald was taken into custody. The flight then went on to Newark as planned. It’s unclear if MacDonald’s girlfriend disembarked with him, or continued to New Jersey.

MacDonald was held in custody from March 1 until he pleaded guilty on March 22. On April 25, the U.S. District Court of Maine remanded MacDonald into the custody of U.S. Marshal deputies, who will see that he’s deported back to England.

The case was jointly investigated by the F.B.I., U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the local Bangor Police Department.

MacDonald’s guilty plea will allow him to avoid further jail time, but he’ll have to reimburse United the $20,638 in fees incurred by his tantrum. He and his girlfriend have also been banned from all future United Airlines flights.

The Federal Aviation Administration reports that there have already been 649 reported instances of unruly passengers in 2024. Reports of unruly passengers skyrocketed in 2021, with nearly 6,000 incidents, a 492 percent increase over 2020. Those numbers have been slowly declining in recent years, with 2023 seeing just over 2,000 reported incidents.

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