Hawaiian Airlines Diverts 2 Flights in One Day Over Passenger Conflicts

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airplane with passengers
airplane with passengers

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Hawaiian Airlines was forced to divert two of its flights within less than 12 hours due to unruly passengers aboard two aircrafts.

The first of two incidents took place Thursday morning shortly after 7:30 a.m. local time, when Hawaiian Air Flight 152 departed for Hilo from the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, according to The Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

The flight was diverted back to Honolulu after a 32-year-old passenger allegedly punched a flight attendant two times. Company spokesperson Alex Da Silva confirmed to the Star-Advertiser that "a passenger assaulted one of our flight attendants, who was walking the aisle, in an unprovoked incident."

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Hawaiian Airlines did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

Da Silva also told the outlet the passenger's alleged assault on the flight attendant was not sparked by mask non-compliance. After being evaluated, the flight attendant was "released from work to rest," Da Silva added.

"This behavior onboard is unacceptable," Taylor Garland, spokeswoman of the Association of Flight Attendants, told The Star Advertiser. "We are providing support to the flight attendant involved in the incident."

In a second incident that occurred just hours later that same day, another Hawaiian Airlines flight was diverted when a passenger refused to comply with the airline's mask mandate.

Hawaiian Flight 22, which departed Daniel K. Inouye International Airport at 1:05 p.m. local time Thursday, was headed to Seattle before it was diverted due to the unruly passenger.

"Approximately two hours after takeoff, our captain was notified of a passenger who refused to comply with the federal mask mandate and caused a disturbance to other guests. Our flight attendants, along with an off-duty pilot, were able to de-escalate the situation," Hawaiian Airlines spokeswoman Tara Shimooka told The Star Advertiser.

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Shimooka added, "Out of an abundance of caution, the captain elected to return to (Honolulu), where local authorities met the aircraft upon arrival at 5:53 p.m."

Jai Cunningham, Department of Transportation spokesman, confirmed to the outlet that an adult female passenger was involved in the incident, which did not result in any injuries.

"We have zero tolerance for disruptive and dangerous behavior in our cabins and have banned or denied boarding to 98 passengers so far this year," Shimooka told The Star Advertiser.

Thursday's onboard disruptions follow a string of similar incidents that have occurred across airlines in the past year. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee aviation subcommittee held a hearing Thursday on the spike in uncooperative and disruptive passengers, The Washington Post reported.

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"As the nation works to get to the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic, the surge in public air rage incidents has exacerbated the already-tenuous workforce situation in our aviation sector and eroded confidence in air travel," Rep. Rick Larsen said during the hearing, per The Post.

The hearing came as the FAA revealed it has received 4,385 reports of unruly passengers since the start of the year.