A London-bound American Airlines flight returns to Miami after woman refuses to wear mask

·3 min read
Miami Herald file photo

A London-bound American Airlines flight that left Miami had to turn back more than an hour into its trip after a passenger refused to wear a mask and became “disruptive,” the airline said.

The mask drama happened Wednesday night while the American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER was about 34,000 feet over the Atlantic, just off the coast of the Carolinas on the way to London’s Heathrow Airport, according to FlightAware, an online flight tracker.

American Airlines didn’t specify the “disruptive” behavior, but it was enough to have the flight return to Miami International Airport, where police were waiting at the gate. The plane was about an hour and a half into its flight before changing course, according to Miami Herald news partner CBS4.

Miami-Dade police said the woman got off the plane and was dealt with “administratively” by the airline’s staff. Police said they did not arrest her and no one was injured.

“American Airlines flight 38 with service from Miami (MIA) to London (LHR) returned to MIA due to a disruptive customer refusing to comply with the federal mask requirement,” American Airlines said in a statement Thursday morning. “The flight landed safely at MIA where local law enforcement met the aircraft. We thank our crew for their professionalism and apologize to our customers for the inconvenience.”

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Under the U.S. federal mask mandate, everyone is required to wear a mask that covers their mouth and nose while on planes and other forms of public transportation including buses, ride-shares and trains. Not everyone is keen on following it. Mask issues on planes have become a common sight during the pandemic.

Most recently, former basketball player Dennis Rodman had some mask-related problems during his flight from Los Angeles to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in December. Broward deputies met him at the FLL gate, he cooperated and left without any issues.

Southwest Airlines is also reportedly embroiled in a $10 million lawsuit, filed by a passenger who says she was taken off her D.C. to West Palm Beach flight earlier this month because she repeatedly took off her mask to drink water.

Mask fights aren’t the only problems airlines are dealing with.

The Federal Aviation Administration says it has initiated 32 investigations out of the 151 unruly passenger reports it has received so far in 2022. Ninety-two of those situations are mask-related as of Tuesday, the FAA’s most recent data. In 2021, it investigated 1,075 unruly passenger incidents.

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Recent incidents include a man who was arrested earlier this month for grounding a Miami-bound American Airlines flight in Honduras after he went into the cockpit and caused damage. And in November, a 42-year-old woman had her feet zip-tied by a another passenger after she allegedly punched a crew member and pulled another worker’s hair during her flight from Fort Lauderdale to Nashville.

But it’s not all bad in the sky. A student from Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, who had just completed training to become an EMT, resuscitated a man during his Southwest flight from Orlando to Las Vegas, according to WESH. And on Jan. 9, a student athlete got to travel in style when he found himself the only passenger on an almost nine-hour British Airways flight from England to Central Florida.