A Southwest Airlines flight bound for Indianapolis from Las Vegas had to go back to the gate because of an unruly passenger Monday night.
Southwest Airlines Flight 717 returned to the gate in Las Vegas shortly after pushing back takeoff because of a man who refused to follow crew member instructions, according to a Southwest Airlines spokesperson. Police met the aircraft at the gate and the passenger was removed from the plane.
What happened on the flight occurs more times than you might imagine. The behavior and concern, if not fear, experienced on the Indy-bound flight, by one industry estimate, occurs on thousands of passenger planes every year.
The Bloomington couple who watched Las Vegas police take the disruptive passenger off their flight worried what he might have done after the plane took off.
When police boarded the plane and made their way down the aisle toward the man, David and Penny Thompson were sitting two seats behind them. Penny recorded some of the ordeal and David admitted watching with clenched fists, fearing he might have to take the man down.
Even before boarding the plane, Thompson says the man didn't look okay. He was animated and talking to himself.
"We thought he drank too much. Maybe medication," Thompson explained. "He showed signs of schizophrenia, of bi-polar, without medication or taking medication he shouldn't, we didn't know."
Once on the plane, Thompson says the man was taking his shoes on and off and refusing the flight attendant's requests to fasten his seat belt.
"The lady beside him kinda said some things and she's a little nervous," Thompson said. "He said something like, 'I'm sitting between these two guys.' That's when I thought, 'This is going to be a long flight'."
Perhaps even a dangerous flight.
"Hey, this is real, people. Things are going crazy. People are getting crazy ideas anymore," he explained.
The Southwest plane prepared to take off, with the passenger still refusing to buckle up, the plane taxied to the runway, where the pilot decided to turn around.
Passengers were worried about what might happened once they got in the air.
"What was going through your mind?" Eyewitness News reporter Rich Van Wyk asked David Thompson.
"I'm going to have to take him down. That is what was running through my mind. The lady can't do anything. The guys beside him weren't saying a word, rightfully so. You didn't want to stir him up," Thompson said.
Penny recorded video as her husband clenched his fists.
"She busted me," he laughed. "I'm not a scrapper. But there is not too many guys and I'm thinking I'm not letting him take down my wife, there's a one-year-old baby there."
The man didn't argue or resist officers. A spokesperson for the Las Vegas police says the passenger was not arrested, no crimes were committed, and following airline policy, after the man was removed from the plane he was released.
"What were you saying to yourself as he walked away?" Van Wyk asked.
"Everything is going to be okay," David Thompson said. "I'm thinking we really don't know how blessed we really are that we don't have issues, whether they are mental or family issues, cropping up in your mind. Here it is Christmas, who knows what was his problem. Count your blessings."
Statistics from the International Air Transport Association show flight attendants deal with about 4,700 disruptive passengers a year.
Story and video: http://www.wthr.com