A dispute over the cost of a $10 blanket aboard a Hawaiian Airlines flight from Las Vegas to Honolulu — and a comment about taking someone “to the woodshed over this” — led the pilot this morning to dump the plane’s fuel and make an unscheduled landing in Los Angeles.
The unidentified, 66-year-old, male passenger was escorted off the plane by two airport officers and released. There will be no follow-up investigation or criminal charges, said Rob Pedegro, spokesman for the Los Angeles Airport Police.
“It was just a complaint about a blanket, about the cost of the blanket, correct,” Pedegro said. “He was upset about the charge for the blanket and asked for a corporate phone number. They provided him with it and (then) he said, ‘I’d really like to take somebody behind the woodshed over this.’ They diverted the aircraft because of that statement.”
Pedegro did not release the man’s identity or home town but said, “he was not arrested, not charged. He was just removed from the plane. No criminal charges. No charges by the FBI. None by us. He was just refused service. He was released and able to find a different service provider.”
The remaining passengers lifted off at 2:48 p.m. California time for Honolulu. They originally were scheduled to land at 1:54 p.m. Hawaii time.
“The decision to divert is based on safety,” Hawaiian Airlines spokesman Alex Da Silva said. “We had an unruly passenger on board, so the pilot elected to divert to LAX.”
The airline later released a statement saying the flight “was about one hour into the flight, just past Los Angeles, when our flight attendant notified the crew of an unruly passenger.”
“Our flight crews are responsible for the safety and comfort of all passengers on board our flights and the captain in charge of the aircraft is entrusted with determining when it’s best to deplane an anxious or unruly passenger. Diverting a fight is clearly not our first choice, but our crew felt it was necessary in this case to divert to Los Angeles and deplane the passenger before beginning to fly over the Pacific ocean,” the statement said.
George Enriques, a Maui-bound passenger aboard Hawaiian Airlines flight 7, was sitting across the aisle from the white-haired passenger in seat 42A who was escorted off of the plane.
A flight attendant told Enriques that the passenger in 42A had threatened the pilot, Enriques told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
At Las Vegas’ McCarren International Airport, Enriques said he saw Hawaiian Airlines personnel speaking to the passenger.
The man told Enriques, “they’re not treating me right. I’m going to call the president,” Enriques said.
The flight left Las Vegas at 8:45 a.m. today. About an hour later, the pilot announced that the plane was landing in Los Angeles but had to dump its fuel over the ocean first.
A flight attendant later told the passengers that the plane had to divert “due to operational reasons” and that law enforcement officers would board the plane. The flight attendant said the cabin was “on secured lock-down.”
At 10:46 a.m., two airport police officers escorted the passenger off the plane without incident. The man was not handcuffed.
Correction: Hawaiian Airlines said they charge $10 for a blanket. A previous version of this story said the cost was $12.
Star-Advertiser reporter Leila Fujimori reported from on board Hawaiian Airlines flight 7.