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Unruly aircraft passengers

'Unruly and physically combative' passenger to pay $20K to United Airlines

An Englishman owes United Airlines $20,638 in restitution fees for threatening to “mess up the plane” and “arguing loudly” with his girlfriend, which caused the plane to be diverted, according to an affidavit filed in the U.S. District Court of Maine. 

United Airlines flight 883 departed from London at around 8 a.m. on March 1 and was heading to Newark, New Jersey, when a flight attendant informed the captain of an “unruly and physically combative” passenger identified as Alexander Michael Dominic MacDonald, 30.

The incident began when MacDonald started “arguing loudly” with his girlfriend. The lead flight attendant “kindly asked him to lower his voice as to not disturb the other passengers.” At first, MacDonald complied, but a few minutes later, the crew heard “loud yelling” from the back galley. 

The flight crew “tried to calm down” MacDonald, who became “verbally and physically aggressive and threatened to “mess up the plane.” MacDonald reportedly also put his hands on the lead flight attendant’s shoulders and backed the crew member into the corner, the affidavit said. 

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The crew and two fellow passengers restrained MacDonald in flex cuffs, and the lead flight attendant determined the flight “needed to be landed for the safety of the crew.” 

United Airlines told USA TODAY that MacDonald and his girlfriend "appeared to be intoxicated."

The flight landed safely at Bangor International Airport in Maine at around 10 a.m. on March 1 where MacDonald was arrested.  The flight continued to Newark.

The FBI, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the Bangor Police Department investigated the case, according to a press release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Maine.

The release said MacDonald had been held in custody since his arrest and pleaded guilty on March 22. On Thursday, the U.S. District Court of Maine remanded MacDonald to the custody of the U.S. Marshal to be deported back to England and ordered him to pay $20,638 in restitution fees to United Airlines. 

MacDonald and his girlfriend are also banned from future United flights, the carrier said.

So far this year, there have been 649 reported incidents of unruly passengers, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. In March alone, there were 171 reported cases. 

Kathleen Wong is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in Hawaii. You can reach her at

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