I hadn’t heard about this story before, though reader Ari2244 made a post about it in the “Ask Lucky” forum:
I was on the flight in this article below. We were almost to California when they turned us around. Do you think they should have landed in California instead of turning us around? It tacked on about 9 hours to our trip and they haven’t offered us compensation, should we expect something?
P.S. I was sitting right by him, crazy stuff for sure.
If you’re like me and hadn’t heard about this incident, a Hawaiian flight from Honolulu to New York returned to Honolulu due to a passenger who threatened to kill his girlfriend, her children, passengers, and crewmembers. Per CBS News:
A New York City-bound flight returned to Honolulu after a passenger who had been drinking allegedly threatened to kill his girlfriend, her children, passengers and crewmembers, the FBI said.
According to an FBI affidavit, James August allegedly slapped a female flight attendant’s shoulder and threatened his girlfriend.
Flight attendants reported that he yelled, swore and threatened to punch his girlfriend in the face.
The plane left Honolulu at about 4:30 p.m. and returned at about 9:30 p.m., said Hawaiian Airlines spokeswoman Ann Botticelli.
What a horrible situation. The flight from Honolulu to New York seems to take about nine hours on average, and routes right over Southern California, per FlightAware:
Since it’s an eastbound flight, there’s a tailwind — in the other direction the flight seems to average 10-11 hours, due to a headwind.
What’s a bit puzzling here is why the flight returned to Honolulu, rather than continuing to Los Angeles, for example. It looks like the flight from Honolulu to Los Angeles that day on the same type of plane took about five hours, while the flight in question was in the air for 5hr31min. That seems to suggest that the plane was more than halfway to the mainland (at least in terms of flight time), given the headwind they faced on the way back. Flightradar24 has a playback of the diverted flight.
So, with a “dangerous” passenger onboard, why would the plane return to Hawaii? I’m not questioning the motives of the captain or airline, as I’m sure they had a reason. What I can come up with is the following:
- Perhaps it was cheaper to return to Honolulu so the plane was back at its hub, and they could easily get a replacement crew, etc.
- On the other hand, by continuing to Los Angeles they could have dropped off the passenger and continued the flight, unless that would have caused them to exceed their duty day, which often kicks in when the plane’s door opens; if the onward flight would have been canceled, they could have theoretically booked passengers on other airlines, though this was the Monday after Thanksgiving, so…
So I’m guessing the decision was motivated by logistics. Regardless, there’s no doubt this was a big inconvenience for passengers, as they essentially took a nearly six hour flight to nowhere.
Are passengers on the flight due any compensation? Logically I’d say no, in the sense that Hawaiian suffered the most from this incident, given the tens of thousands of dollars of fuel they burned, etc. At the same time, in many cases airlines will offer passengers some sort of gesture of goodwill, as a way of recognizing the inconvenience caused, even if it was out of their control.
Some might argue this should have been addressed on the ground before takeoff, based on what documents say:
Trouble started before the flight took off from Honolulu International Airport when a crying 11-year-old boy told a flight attendant “can you please just keep him away from us?” the document said. August’s girlfriend and her three children refused to return to their seats in the same row as him.
Regardless, this seems like a bad situation for all parties involved.