American Airlines London-Bound Flight Turns Back to Miami After Passenger Refuses to Wear Mask

Nicolas Economou | NurPhoto | Getty Images
  • American said Flight 38 to London returned over a dispute with a passenger who refused to wear a mask.
  • The flight's return follows a surge in reports of unruly travelers over the past year.
  • Most of those disputes were tied to masks.

American Airlines said a flight to London returned to Miami because a passenger refused to comply with the federal mask requirement, the latest flight disruption over a report of an unruly passenger.

American Airlines Flight 38, a Boeing 777 with 129 passengers and 14 crew members abroad, turned back for Miami late Wednesday about an hour into the trip, according to flight-tracking site FlightAware.

The return was "due to a disruptive customer refusing to comply with the federal mask requirement," American said in a statement. "The flight landed safely at MIA where local law enforcement met the aircraft. We thank our crew for their professionalism and apologize to our customers for the inconvenience."

The traveler has been banned from flying the airline pending an investigation, the carrier said.

The Miami-Dade Police Department said Friday in a statement that American called it in "reference to a female passenger refusing wear her mask."

"Once the plane made it to the gate, the passenger was escorted off the plane by MDPD officers without incident," it said. "The passenger was then dealt with administratively, by American Airlines staff."

Reports of unruly behavior on planes surged to a record 5,981 last year, more than 71% tied to disputes over a federal mask mandate that went into effect early last year, though airlines had required them since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Some incidents included physical assault against crews. In October, an American Airlines flight attendant was hospitalized after a passenger allegedly struck her in the face, forcing the cross-country flight to divert.

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