A passenger who refused to wear her mask forced a London-bound American Airlines flight to return to Miami

·2 min read
An American Airlines Boeing-777
An American Airlines Boeing-777Getty Images
  • A woman who refused to wear a face mask caused a London-bound flight to turn around, officials said.

  • Flight AAL38 returned to Florida over a "disruptive customer," American Airlines said.

  • The woman — who is in her 40s — was not charged as a result of the incident, police said.

An American Airlines passenger who refused to wear her face mask forced a flight to London from Miami to divert back to Florida roughly an hour into the 4,400-mile journey, officials said.

Heathrow Airport-bound flight AAL38 departed the gate from Miami International Airport at around 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, but returned to the Florida airport at around 9:30 p.m. "due to a disruptive customer refusing to comply with the federal mask requirement," American Airlines said in a statement on Thursday.

The Boeing 777 was carrying 129 passengers and 14 crewmembers and "landed safely at [Miami's airport] where local law enforcement met the aircraft," the airline said.

"We thank our crew for their professionalism and apologize to our customers for the inconvenience," the airline said.

When the plane landed back at the Miami airport, officers with the Miami-Dade Police Department escorted the non-compliant passenger — described by authorities as a woman in her 40s — off of the aircraft, cops said.

American Airlines placed the woman on its "internal refuse list" pending further investigation.

"They had a disturbance on the plane with the female passenger refusing to wear her mask, which was enough for them to bring back the plane and call us," Miami-Dade Detective Argemis Colome told Insider.

Colome added, "Once we arrived, we basically just kind of kept the peace."

The woman was not detained or charged as a result of the incident, said Colome.

"She was escorted off the plane, but there was no further incident after that," Colome said. "Her outcome was pretty much dealt with by the American Airlines staff. They dealt with that administratively and that was it."

Flight trackers show that the plane was off the coast of North Carolina when it turned around.

In 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration logged 5,981 unruly passenger reports with 4,290 mask-related incidents reported.

So far this year as of January 18, the FAA recorded 151 reports of unruly passengers with 92 related to face masks, according to the agency.

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