— -- An unruly Hawaiian Airlines passenger now owes the carrier more than $97,000 after allegedly slapping a flight attendant and forcing the plane to divert, a federal judge has ruled.
James August, traveling with his girlfriend and her three children from Honolulu to New York last November, was allegedly overheard threatening the flight attendant during takeoff and in flight, court documents say.
His girlfriend, who was sitting one row behind him with her children, refused to move her family to their assigned seats next to him. As the plane was taxiing, her 11-year-old son allegedly begged flight attendants, “Can you please just keep him away from us?”
A fellow passenger informed the crew that August, who had been drinking, made "multiple life-threatening remarks," including allegedly threatening to slice his girlfriend's throat and swearing at her and her children, according to the documents. When flight attendants asked him to move to another part of the aircraft, he refused, allegedly slapping the shoulder of the flight attendant, the documents state.
After August was restrained by two male flight attendants, the captain diverted the flight back to Honolulu, fearing August was a danger to the rest of the passengers and the crew.
August pleaded guilty to interfering with the flight crew and now has to pay $97,817.29 in monthly installments of 10 percent of his gross income. The money will reimburse Hawaiian Airlines for landing fees, crew costs, the cost of rebooking passengers on different flights and other assorted expenses.
"Turning an aircraft around due to a passenger’s unruly interference with our flight crew not only creates an inconvenience to all guests on board, but is extremely costly," Hawaiian Airlines said in a statement. "We appreciate the efforts of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the ruling allowing Hawaiian to recoup some of the hard costs it incurred."
Alcohol or drug intoxication was a factor in nearly one-quarter of the almost 11,000 cases of disruptive passengers, according to an International Air Transport Association (IATA) report for 2015 incidents.