Jan 20, 2022 - Health

American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute

Picture of American Airlines plane
Photo: Stefani Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

An American Airlines flight en route to London from Miami was forced to turn around about an hour into the trip due to a passenger "refusing to comply with the federal mask requirement," an airline spokesperson said Thursday.

State of play: The flight, which carried 129 passengers and 14 crew members, was about 500 miles into its over 4,000-mile journey when it was diverted back to the Miami International Airport.

  • The disruptive passenger has been placed on American Airlines' internal refuse list pending further investigation.
  • No customers or crew members were injured.

What they're saying: "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," an American Airlines spokesperson said in a statement.

  • It was not immediately clear whether the passenger was arrested or charged upon landing.
  • The Miami-Dade Police Department did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

Catch up fast: Last year, the Federal Aviation Administration announced a new "zero tolerance policy" toward unruly airline passengers, who could face fines of up to $35,000 and imprisonment for interfering with crew members.

  • Incidents involving unruly passengers on commercial flights increased during the pandemic.
  • In November, Attorney General Merrick Garland said he had directed Justice Department staff to prioritize the prosecution of federal crimes "occurring on commercial aircraft that endanger the safety of passengers, flight crews and flight attendants."
Go deeper