Man arrested after trans-Atlantic United flight diverted

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LONDON — Authorities have arrested a 42-year-old man for endangering the safety of a plane after a United Airlines flight from Rome to Chicago was forced to divert to Northern Ireland.

Belfast International Airport Constabulary said in a statement Sunday that the man with dual Italian and American nationality is also set to be charged with disruptive behavior on board an aircraft and common assault. Airport officials did not elaborate on what the passenger is alleged to have done, nor did they offer any other personal details about him.

The flight, UA971, touched down on Saturday to “offload” the disruptive passenger. However, as the flight crew had exceeded the number of hours they were permitted to work, the 269 passengers and 14 crew members had to wait until Sunday to continue their journey.

To make matters worse, there was not enough hotel space available. The Belfast airport called in additional staff, distributed water and blankets and opened two rooms at the airport for the passengers, many of whom spent the night sleeping on the floor.

Airport officials described passengers as “remarkably calm and understanding.”

“We understand the inconvenience this causes our customers and will refund their Rome to Chicago flight as well as offer the choice of a travel certificate or miles for our MileagePlus loyalty program,” United said in a statement. Airport officials said in a statement on Sunday that the man remains in custody and is set to appear in at Coleraine Magistrates Court on Monday.

BY DANICA KIRKA, Associated Press

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