Unruly Passenger Diverts Delta Flight Bound for LAX

The incident raises more questions about how to reduce these incidents on airplanes.  

NBC Universal, Inc.

An unruly passenger was taken into custody after diverting a Delta flight that was bound for LAX. 

The flight was coming from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles, but it ended up diverting to Oklahoma City.

The incident raises more questions about how to reduce these incidents on airplanes.  

Alcohol is implicated in this latest onboard disturbance, coming as airlines disagree over whether they should continue serving inflight drinks.

Other passengers recorded the incident as a responding air marshal did his best to calm down the agitated man in the tank top who's lost his mask.

Though that seemed unrelated to his meltdown.

The air marshals became involved after the man quarreled with a seatmate, and a flight attendant, another man, went to speak to him.


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Later, the marshalls strapped the passenger back into his seat.

The pilot made the decision to divert to Oklahoma City, and authorities escorted him off the plane.  

Local police booked 35-year-old Ariel Pennington of Washington, D.C. for disorderly conduct and public drunkenness.

"That had to be pretty combative for the air marshal to step in in the first place," said Sara Nelson, Intl. President, association of flight attendants:

What worries flight attendants is the bigger picture, the surge of passenger disturbances in the past year.

Association President Sara Nelson has testified on this to Congress.

"What we hear is 60% of the time alcohol is involved in these incidents," Nelson said. 

The FAA has received reports of nearly 300 this year.

It has been raising concerns about pre-flight drinking in bars and restaurants in the terminal by passengers who in some cases sneak alcohol on board.

"That's really a problem for us...gate agents and flight attendants. Especially when cups are not marked," Nelson said. 

It's not known whether Pennington drank in the terminal, but onboard the passenger in his row recalls seeing him being served a Jack Daniels shortly before he became agitated.

"We really encourage airlines not to serve alcohol, for our safety," Nelson said. 

At this point, with masking requirements still in effect, many airlines are by choice not serving alcohol, including American and Southwest. 

Delta among those taking a different approach. A spokesman told NBC4 that incidents such as last night are rare, and so far as he knows, Delta is not reconsidering its alcohol policy.

He also said he's not aware of what the witness told NBC4 -- that the traveler who disrupted the flight had earlier been served alcohol on board.

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