Unruly Spirit Airlines Passenger Leaves Travelers Stranded For More Than 10 Hours

A Spirit Airlines flight from L.A. to Ft. Lauderdale had to make an unexpected — and incredibly prolonged — stop in Houston on Sunday, all because of an unruly passenger.

The nature of the problem is vague, though the airline tells the Houston Chronicle that the passenger’s behavior had become “disruptive” to the point where the pilot felt the only option was to make an emergency landing at Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.

Unfortunately, that decision resulted in the plane sitting on the tarmac for about an hour, with passengers then spending another 10 hours spent waiting at the gate with little or no information from Spirit regarding the status of the flight. KHOU-TV also reports that the passengers were not provided any food.

“We understand that this was an inconvenience for our customers,” a Spirit rep tells the Chronicle, “but the safety of our customers is always top priority. All customers are being given full refunds for this inconvenience.”

The rep explains that the biggest impediment to getting the passengers back up in the air is that Spirit does not currently operate out of IAH, “so we coordinated resources with the airport and deplaned customers as quickly as possible and sent another plane as quickly as possible.”

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  1. Cat says:

    The rep explains that the biggest impediment to getting the passengers back up in the air is that Spirit does not currently have a fee for that.

  2. Scooter McGee says:

    And here comes Spirit’s latest fee, the unruly passenger fee. This will result in a faster handling time should your plane be required to stop at an airport where they do not operate out of. Any idea what this person did that required them to need a different plane sent there?

  3. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    On the radio news this morning I heard the passenger was kicking the walls and punching windows… I can certainly understand the need for the landing.

    But did the passenger do damage? Why on earth did they have to send another plane?

    • nugatory says:

      if they even suspect there could be damage, they would at least perform an inspection. Since they do not operate from IAH, they wouldn’t have any maintenance people ready to inspect the plan.

      Just a guess..

      • Scooter McGee says:

        Now it makes sense. If I knew somebody was trying to knock out windows on my plane, I think I’d rather wait for another than chance it on the original.

      • humphrmi says:

        This is likely exactly what happened. I was once on a flight from Chicago to London, and they diverted to Gander because passengers had reported smelling a “burning smell” in one of the cabins. After they landed, we deplaned but since AA didn’t have a crew at Gander, we had to wait while they sent another plane. It turned out that the burning smell was a coffee pot that had been left on a burner with too little coffee in it. But even after they determined that (which was before the replacement plane had arrived), since they had made an emergency landing with the plane, they couldn’t fly it again until it was inspected.

      • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

        I was on a Delta flight to a regional airport that’s actually controlled by the local Air Force Base (shares the flightline and runways with them). We encountered some mechanical problems, and though we were already over 50% of the way to our destination they turned around and put us on a different plane.

        I was at a loss for why they would do that at the time, but my Dad explained that yes, they didn’t have any maintenance crews on the air force base, and thus would have had to send another plane with a maintenance crew (with everything they could have possibly required) to get that one back in service.

    • dks64 says:

      It was an elderly passenger… I wonder if Dementia played a role.

      • BigHeadEd says:

        Good thought. My sister flew to Michigan from Alabama escorting my father who suffered from Alzheimer’s. I think if she hadn’t been sitting next to him and keeping him calm in what was a disruptive and confusing environment, he would have been a handful.

      • poco says:

        Not to be rude to our elders, but with our aging population this is only going to become more common. We need to start thinking now about restricting older people’s mobility; specifically ensuring people who drive or fly are in command of their faculties.

    • iesika says:

      The flight crew might have been over their legal duty time by the time everything was resolved, necessitating a new crew be flown out.

  4. BigHeadEd says:

    Flying (nonstop I assume) from LA to Ft. Lauderdale on a Spirit flight is not my idea of a fun even in the best of circumstances, but nevertheless, good on them for at least giving full refunds.

  5. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    Per abc.com, the plane was sent because of time constraints on the crew… How close were they cutting it that they couldn’t land, get the man off (81, blind, no charges being pressed) and get back in the air?

    It would be nice if there were pools airlines could draft crew from in the event of extraordinary circumstances, there are tons of Continental (or whomever bought them) crew members living around IAH.

    • bennshu says:

      It really isn’t as easy as just resolving the situation and getting the plane back in the air, especially if the airline has no privileges at the airport. In those situations, the airports really have no duty to the plane or passengers and shove the plane to the back of the line. All other planes with privileges at the airport get priority for gates and for taking off. So depending on a lot of things going on, including how many other flights were taking off at the time, it could have been quite a while before the plane was allowed to take off, and the crew ran out of time. This happened to me once – the flight crew literally ran out of time just as we were going down the runway.

  6. PragmaticGuy says:

    Well, at least it wasn’t one of the crew who went crazy this time.

  7. nopirates says:

    “little or no information from Spirit regarding the status of the flight”

    gee, there’s a surprise…

  8. SirWired says:

    Would have been nice if the captain of the plane had showed some initiative and bought a bunch of pizzas at the airport or something for the passengers to eat…

    • Snchpnz says:

      Yes and then some lady gets indigestion and sues the pilot, the airline, the airport, the flight attendants, the pizza company, the delivery guy and all the other passengers on the plane.

      • BorkBorkBork says:

        And then the gluten intolerant sue claiming they were discriminated against because the pilot didn’t get them gluten free pizza.

        Then the parents with kids that have pizza allergies sue.

    • yankinwaoz says:

      The pilot probably doesn’t make much money at all. If anything, I’d feel like I need to buy him a pizza. The days of well paid pilots are long gone. Some of those guys and gals just starting are lucky to bring home $30k a year.

  9. Portlandia says:

    “All customers are given full refunds”….less a refund fee, and a returned luggage fee, airport layover fee…in the end they will owe the airline more money.

  10. Cacao says:

    Did you know there is a rub-on (trans-dermal) sedative? Yes! My friend’s mom was in a nursing home that specialized in patients with Alzheimer’s. If a patient got upset, the nursing attendant would rub some of this sedative on his neck and he’d calm down. All the patient feels is a gentle massage, much less scarier than a needle coming at you, am I right?

    Planes need to carry this for unruly passengers.