Passengers flying on the world’s safest airline say that their warnings about a potentially disruptive passenger were ignored — leading to an emergency diversion of their flight from California to Texas when a woman tried to open an emergency exit door mid-flight.
Southwest Airlines flight 4519 had taken off on time from Los Angeles for a routine journey to Houston Hobby airport. But the airline said crew became concerned about one of the passengers and chose to divert to Corpus Christi airport, about 200 miles short of the intended destination.
Passenger Henrietta Mokwuah told news station ABC13 that after pacing up and down the aisle, the woman "tore off a piece" of the emergency exit door.
The woman was detained by police in Corpus Christi, while the plane eventually continued its journey nearly five hours behind schedule.
Some passengers claimed that the woman had been behaving strangely at the gate before the flight from Los Angeles. Corey Chao, a passenger on the flight, tweeted: “I reported to the SWA gate agent, and they claimed security had been called. Then I see this person on flight an hour later…”
Kristy Gillentine, a journalist who was travelling on the flight, said: “This is a clear failure of many people to #SEESOMETHINGSAYSOMETHING. Erratic passenger never should have been allowed on flight.”
She had earlier tweeted: “Emergency landing in Corpus Christi on @southwestair flight LAX-HOU due to unruly passenger. Ready to get on home now, please.”
Southwest Airlines has never suffered a crash in its 46 year history, during which it has flown around five billion passengers. In a blog post earlier this year, the Chairman and CEO, Gary Kelly, wrote: “I have a growing concern that, as a larger society, we are becoming more divisive and less civil toward each other.”
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