Most Pennsylvania residents do not spend a large amount of time on airplanes and only travel a couple of times a year for business or vacation purposes. As such, few people are aware that the actions that an airline passenger might take while inflight could lead to federal criminal charges. Because of the focus in recent years on maintaining a safe inflight environment, individuals who act out on an airplane can suffer far greater consequences than those actions might merit while on the ground.
An example is found in a recent report of an unruly passenger on a flight that had to divert to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At some point within the cross-country flight, the 40-year-old man allegedly began throwing his personal belongings. When a flight attendant approached to try and calm him, he made statements to suggest that he believed that the attendant was an agent with the FBI and a "bad person."
Attempts were made to restrain the man, and after multiple passengers became involved, he was subdued and restrained with plastic handcuffs and a seat belt extension. Even after being physically restrained, he reportedly continued to try to kick and spit on nearby passengers and flight crew. Those actions led to federal charges of interfering with members of a flight crew.
These charges are serious, and could lead to as many as 20 years in federal prison. The man was scheduled to appear before a federal magistrate in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The results of that appearance will determine if he will remain behind bars as the case moves forward. It is too early to tell how he will respond to those charges, but similar incidents in the past have been the result of issues that are outside of the control of the individual. Examples include an unexpected reaction to medication taken before or during a flight, and response to severe stress and anxiety connected to air travel.
Source: lancasteronline.com, "Complaint: Unruly passenger caused flight to be diverted", Joe Mandak, Oct. 29, 2015