We read about flight diversions fairly regularly, but it is not often we read about who settles the bill.
Diverting a plane cost moneys. There are fuel costs, landing fees, labor costs, not to mention passenger rebooking. A diversion may cause a ripple-effect of delays as an aircraft’s usage is carefully planned to maximize utilization.
So what happens when a passenger acts up and is responsible for the diversion? Who gets the bill?
One Delta passenger was just fined $9,118 for causing a flight diversion in late May. That amount could rise another $5,000 once Transportation Security Administration and Federal Aviation Administration fines are added. Jail-time (up to six months) is also not out of the question, though unlikely.
On a Delta flight from Portland, Oregon to Atlanta, Bolutife Olorunda warned a FA, “Don’t touch me and if you touch me again you will regret it.” Apparently, the man had been acting singing/screaming loudly to himself. When a FA approached him, he issued the threat. FAs summoned an onboard Air Marshal and Olorunda repeated the threat. After multiple threats, the flight diverted to Tulsa, Oklahoma.
An Attorney’s Victory Lap
The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorneys’ Office for the Northern District of Oklahoma. U.S. Attorney R. Trent Shores issued this commentary to reporters:
Airline passengers must follow the instructions of flight staff. If they do not, there are consequences. Mr. Olorunda learned that those consequences can include diversion of a commercial flight and federal prosecution. The defendant will be reimbursing the airline for the cost of diverting that flight.
That first sentence is a dangerous generalization. Airline passengers must follow the lawful instructions of flight staff. Perhaps that goes without saying, but sometimes diversions happen that should not…FAs are not infallible.
But actions do indeed carry consequences.
I hope stories like this are helpful in dissuading passengers from poor behavior onboard. If you know you’re going to get a large bill for the diversion, maybe passengers will think twice about having that extra drink before takeoff or onboard.