Florida Woman Faked Medical Condition To Get Better Airplane Seat And Forced Plane To Be Diverted, Police Say

A picture of planes on a tarmac.
STEFAN SCHWEIHOFER / Pixabay

A Florida woman who faked a medical condition in order to get a better seat on an airplane during the busy Thanksgiving weekend ended up causing the plane to be diverted, police say.

The unnamed woman is now in custody after police say she told staff on an American Airlines flight from Pensacola to Miami that she was having trouble breathing. As NBC News reported, the woman actually wanted to sit more comfortably during the flight and was making up the medical issue.

The pilot had to turn around and return to Pensacola, where the plane landed.

The situation only got sticker from there, the report noted. After the flight was diverted, the woman refused to leave the plane, leading officials to evacuate all other passengers. The pilot was eventually able to convince the woman to leave the plane, and she was arrested.

As American Airlines noted in a statement on the incident, it all took place in under two hours — which was nearly 20 minutes longer than the length of the original flight.

“American Eagle 3508 returned to Pensacola due to a passenger who requested medical assistance,” American Airlines said in a statement to NBC News on Friday. “The flight took off at 5:43 a.m. and landed back at Pensacola at 6:26 a.m. and taxied to the gate. All [passengers] deplaned normally at the gate through the main boarding door and onto the jet bridge. The passenger was subsequently removed by law enforcement and medical personnel, and the flight took off again at 7:41 a.m.”

As the Tampa Bay Times reported, police took the woman into custody under the state’s Baker Act, which allows a person to be held involuntarily if they pose a threat to themselves or others. The report did not note whether the woman had been released or remained in custody.

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It was not clear yet if the woman would face charges for claiming she suffered a medical issue, Pensacola Police Department public information officer Mike Wood said. She may still be charged, the report noted.

The woman could also face some large fines if found guilty of the charges. Last year, a man’s unruly behavior on a Delta Airlines flight caused it to be diverted for singing loudly and screaming, as well as making a veiled threat against a flight attendant. After being hit with federal assault charges, the man was fined close to $10,000 for the cost of diverting the flight.