A Delta Air Lines Inc. passenger was arrested in Los Angeles after opening one of the aircraft’s doors and sliding down the inflatable emergency exit slide just as the plane prepared for takeoff to Seattle on Saturday.
The incident on Delta DAL, +1.50% Flight 1714 took place around 10:40 a.m. local time Saturday, but curious would-be travelers around the country were still sharing the viral news story across social media on Monday.
The plane, a Boeing 737 BA, +1.63%, was on the runway holding to taxi for takeoff when the passenger exited the aircraft after activating the emergency slide, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement. Other reports said he jumped onto a baggage cart before being stopped.
The passenger was initially detained by Delta staff who kept other passengers abreast of the situation. He was then arrested by local law enforcement, the statement read. Local law enforcement also said the passenger was being given a mental health evaluation, the New York Post reported.
“Customers are being reaccommodated on a new aircraft and we apologize for the inconvenience and delay in their travel plans,” the FAA statement said, adding that the agency continues to investigate the incident.
Earlier this year, Delta CEO Ed Bastian sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland reiterating his call for the Justice Department to prosecute unruly passengers and place them on a no-fly list. Bastian had called for these additions to a no-fly list as early as 2021.
Bastian received a reply, but one that essentially tabled the idea.
“The Department of Justice is continuing to prioritize the investigations and prosecutions of those who engage in criminal behavior that threatens the safety of passengers, flight crews, and flight attendants,” a department spokesman said to CNN and other news outlets at the time.
“We are fully committed to holding accountable those who violate federal law. We will be referring Delta’s letter to appropriate departments,” he added.
Republican senators Ted Cruz of Texas, and Marco Rubio and Rick Scott of Florida have criticized such treatment, saying any DOJ proposal would equate unruly passengers with terrorists.
Read: ‘People who present a danger should not be allowed’ to board a plane: Some say it’s time to establish a ‘no-fly’ list for unruly passengers
When two unruly passengers were escorted off a Delta flight in 2022 before takeoff for verbally abusing flight attendants, the airline said at that time it “has zero tolerance for unruly behavior” and apologized for the inconvenience to other passengers.
In another example from 2022, a passenger aboard a Washington, D.C.-bound American Airlines AAL, +0.91% flight from Los Angeles had what was described as a “paranoia-fueled fit” and tried to open the plane’s door. He was eventually subdued, with a flight attending hitting him on the head with a coffee pot and other passengers assisting.
There had been a dramatic increase in unruly passenger incidents since the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the FAA, sometimes over then-enforced mask rules, but expanding to other incidents. But those numbers have declined since hitting highs in early 2021.