An unruly, 81-year-old blind passenger aboard a Spirit Airlines red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Florida forced the pilot to make an emergency landing in Texas for a 14-hour layover with about 100 on board.
Spirit Airlines Airbus A319 from Los Angeles departed on time at 9:58 p.m. PT Saturday, with a scheduled landing at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport at 6 a.m. Sunday. Midway through the flight, however, the disruptive passenger forced the pilot to make an emergency landing at Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport, where the roughly 100 passengers remained for most of the next day, KTRK-TV reported.
The elderly blind man was kicking and screaming, passengers told ABC News Ft. Lauderdale affiliate Local 10 News.
"This man was like touching everybody," said one woman who was on the flight. "He was going to the bathroom, not letting anybody go to the bathroom, come out of their seats, you know, kicking the walls."
Passengers were reportedly kept in the plane on the tarmac for two hours, without air conditioning, before being allowed into the terminal. The airline then told the waylaid passengers that they would be shuttled by bus five hours north to Dallas, because Spirit does not operate a flight between Houston and Ft. Lauderdale, and did not have a fresh crew to take over the controls.
Passengers became irate, yelling and screaming at airline staff.
"We went 'No! No Way!'" passenger Theresa Shaviano told Local 10. "And it took them 25 minutes afterwards to come back and tell us that they were going to have a plane for us."
"It was terrible. It was unreal. It was painful," she said of the delay.
In a statement released today, Spirit Airlines said the disruptive passenger was turned over to the Houston Police Department.
Spirit Airlines eventually decided to fly the passengers in a different plane, and the flight arrived in South Florida about 8 p.m. Sunday, 14 full hours after the scheduled arrival time.
"We understand that this has been an inconvenience for our customers, but the safety of our customers is always the top priority," the airline said in a statement. "All customers are being given full refunds for this inconvenience."