British Airways Flight Diverts To The Azores After Someone Tries To Self Upgrade

Filed Under: British Airways

Here’s a crazy story. Wednesday’s British Airways flight from London Gatwick to Kingston, Jamaica, BA2263, had to divert to an airport in the Azores in order to offload a disruptive passenger who refused to return to his economy seat. The Boeing 777 landed at Lajes Air Base in the Azores, which is both a military base as well as a commercial airport.


Here’s what transpired, per 9News:

The airline said the man refused to return to his economy seat after sitting in business class without permission.

Cabin crew and one of the pilots spoke to him but were unable to convince him to move, British Airways said.

“He repeatedly refused, verbally abused crew members and disturbed other customers,” the airline said in a statement to

“As a last resort, our cabin crew felt they had no option but to restrain the customer in the interests of the safety of everyone on board and helped him walk back to his original seat.”

The passenger seems to agree that he was refusing to follow orders, but says it’s because his legs were swelling and he was getting dizzy, and needed more room:

However the detained man, Kwame Bantu, 65, said he is a cancer and diabetes sufferer and claims he was only trying to stretch his legs in first class when the row occurred.

Mr Bantu told the MailOnline he was an hour into his flight to visit family in Jamaica when he became dizzy and saw his legs swelling.

“I was just trying to get some room to stretch my leg,” he said.

“But nobody was helping me. They refused to listen about my medical illness and what I was going through. I was treated like a slave.”

He claimed he was “ambushed” by six members of staff who restrained and dragged him back to his seat.

Some have Tweeted pictures of the incident:

There’s also a video of the passenger being removed by the police:

I certainly feel bad for the guy’s medical condition. Without having seen what transpired, it’s tough to know who is in the wrong here. If he did in fact have a serious medical condition, hopefully the crew would recognize that and do what they can to help. At the same time, self upgrading and then after the fact reporting you have a medical condition probably isn’t the ideal way to go about that.

The crew also claims that he was being abusive towards them, why is why they made the decision to restrain him.

What a story…

  1. I don’t buy the man’s story and I support the actions that the crew took in this case. Want more space? Buy a business class seat! Otherwise stretch your legs by taking a stroll to the aft galley or lavatory.

  2. Had he just returned back to his seat in economy after stretching his legs in business/first class, then I highly doubt he would have been restrained. Right? I wish someone took a video in business class so all of us can get a clearer picture as to what happened.
    It’s sad but at the same time he paid for an economy class seat & service and that’s what he got. We all know what it’s like to be in cattle class hence why we are in the miles/points game to try and fly in a better cabin.

  3. Yet another entitled one. If you have medical issues, your best bet is to notify the flight staff.

  4. doubtful his ‘medical condition’ or lack thereof had anything to do with him just being an idiot and deciding to upgrade himself. Ive seen it multiple times when I fly long haul J class, new faces popping up in the cabin in the seats that were empty on takeoff – i dont understand how people can think they are just entitled to sit where they please? *facepalm*

  5. Wouldn’t it be great if we could upgrade just telling the FA’s that we have a “medical condition”?

  6. I have no way of knowing what transpired as the details are sketchy (neither does anyone else until more video surfaces.) But it’s always interesting to me to observe the skepticism/Empathy scale fluctuate in the comment section depending on the race of the subject. Just an observation.

  7. Oh and dont you worry, the parade of the entitled dragging syrollers for pverhead bins, the sick needing to move to first class due to medical concerns, the lonely needing to bring a pet chicken on boatd, is just beginning. Flights from New York to cities in Florida are often called miracle flights. Everone needs a wheelchair to board first. But when the flight lands the handicapped all seem to be cured as they push and shove themeselves off the plane… running.

  8. @Steve, ‘But it’s always interesting to me to observe the skepticism/Empathy scale fluctuate in the comment section depending on the race of the subject. Just an observation.’ Really? your sample size was 6 comments by the time you wrote your own comment. I trust you don’t have to do any research for your line of work! :p

  9. He would of had better luck if he told the FA he “identifies as a business class passenger”

  10. It used to be FA would pit you in first class or exit row if a seat was available, now they make you pay for it even if it is open or you can’t have the seat. This business clearly puts customers last and allows no room for special circumstances.

  11. Getting side-tracked here from the point of the article, but @Jerry:

    It has always been the policy of BA (and the global carriers with decent onboard premium products from the Far and Middle East) not to upgrade passengers to First or Business just because “a seat was available”. It’s not a co-incidence that there’s a strong correlation between how good the onboard premium product is and whether the airline chooses to give it away for free – that’s an almost exclusively US thing.

    Of course, BA is currently in the process of butchering their premium cabins, but that’s a separate issue…

  12. He could have spoken to the airline prior to the flight (and that’s IFFY at best as well!) April 14, 2015 I was in a life altering car accident about an hour outside the Capital of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. ( YOU DON’T EVER WANT TO EXPERIENCE THAT (lack of care and facilities etc..)) On my 6th try I finally got QATAR to agree to fly me home. All other airlines refused!!! The American Embassy said they could get me home… for $250K. US Embassies are soooo helpful towards Americans overseas, it only took them 3 weeks (because they are so busy) to come to the hospital to counsel with me. And while in traction and on my back, would only have cost me $100.00 to get someone from the Embassy to notarize something for me, there at the hospital. GREAT folks there at those Embassies …. always helping (themselves)). The flight to DALLAS/FT.WORTH via Doha from Addis took 26 hrs.. flight time. Because my L-hip was shattered and my L-shoulder too, there was no shifting and moving around, getting up and stretching my legs or lifting myself to readjust myself in my economy class ticket (because 2 months in a hospital wasn’t cheap and I paid CASH). I was in hospital for 2 months in ADDIS ….by the time I landed I had a DVT from my knee to my groin. Causing other complications to my health and the timeline of my recovery. Due to that bloodclot I ended up on my back another 4 months (hence 6 months in total), before the team here at OU MEDICAL TRAUMA CTR replaced my hip in late Sept 2015. Aside all the other muscles, my core too was affected by the lack of movement, in other words all my muscles atrophied. I’m still in physical therapy, 2 years on. Enabling someone with medical conditions to migrate to an ALWAYS empty business class (sorry; flying to countries i.e. like Jamaica are mostly empty first/business class sections, they should have asked him!!! Once you’ve taken off, make someone’s day! I did notice that all of the business class in Qatar’s airline that day was empty, as they LIFTED and squeezed me into a middle section/middle seat… AMAZING!!!

  13. Want to milk a settlement check out of an airline? Here’s some step-by-step instructions:

    1) Try to achieve some sort of confrontation with flight crew and/or law enforcement by deliberately disregarding assorted rules, regulations & instructions

    2) Be ready with a sob story and details of how the big, bad airline mistreated poor, innocent you

    3) Act all wounded and pitiful in front of everyone’s camera phones (watch the Stroller Lady video for inspiration)

    4) Contact Dao’s lawyer.

  14. Ok the airline did the best thing by diverting. If he was having a medical episode he will get the help in Azores till he is fit to fly. If he was being a dick he will be stuck in Azores from where flights are very expensive. Though airlines should offer onboard after takeoff upgrades for token payment so as to not have any empty seats in J or F so that this kind of issue cannot arise in the first place. No empty seat means no temptation to self upgrade.

  15. Another easy way to solve this — inform the passenger that they will be charged the fare for the seat they’re occupying. If you really are sick that extra $$$ won’t matter to you as much.

  16. I respectfully disagree. Having greatly reduced J or F fares on board is simply not fair to the passenger that elected to purchase that service using cash or points. To me, the key isnt to lock up the merchandise so people wont be tempted to steal it but to have people make less entitled, impulsive decisions that are both illegal and unethical. Our 6 th Avenue Bed Bath and Beyond – in Chelsea- has resorted to ” inspecting” everyone leaving the store due to rampid shoplifting. I – the full fare paying passenger- have elected not to shop there. Im not subjected myself the inspections because other people steal.

  17. I’m taking the side of the airline. The passenger knew this was a very long flight. Those with medical conditions that have concerns should always tell staff. Suppose a medical emergency arises, might be a good idea for staff to be aware. All airlines have a minimum set of standards they operate by. However, some airlines go above and beyond those minimum standards. An airline should offer reasonable accommodations to those who need it, this doesn’t include a free upgrade. Aisle seats and seats at the front of coach may have a little extra leg room for passengers that have a legitimate medical need for that accommodation. Also, I’m sure that if fellow passengers are aware that someone on bored has a medical condition and extra leg room is needed, they may be more apt to exchange their seat. At least, I would. It’s a better alternative than being stubborn and possibly having the flight diverted because of a medical emergency.

  18. From what I’ve read, it seems the plane had to return to London after dropping these guys off to avoid the crew timing out. No way they would make this decision lightly, it must have been a pretty serious situation.

  19. Two sides together a story however an airline will not restrain a passenger and divert without good cause. It costs a great deal of money and inconvenience plus disruption to the inbound flight , missed connections etc
    Self upgrading is fraud
    People pay to travel on buss class
    They say if you ask for an upgrade and are refused it may cause offence
    Try going to your local supermarket and refusing to pay for the items in your trolley
    It doesn’t happen often but there are cases where people who are polite are given comp upgrades. Upgrading everyone for anything just devalues the product
    After all, everyone would prefer to travel in a higher class

  20. @Monica

    Cabin upgrade cannot be given to whoever travel with medical problem. If it’s so, there is no way the airlines can make money. No matter what, you choose to travel on your willingness.
    If you travel long enough, you will see so many passengers are creating a fake stories of their health condition to trying to get an upgrade. I have seen enough. Too many stories and it was just unbelievable. On the other side, I truly feel sorry of what have you gone through and wish you to have a better heatlh and recovery from your past accident.

    This guy was trying to be a smart ass. I have seen a lot of other passengers throughout my journey who is trying to do self upgrade. I’m taking the side of the airline. Self upgrade is a big no no regardless of health problem on board.

  21. @Monica,
    You make it sound like you were hard done by Qatar Airways. Maybe you should have had better travel/medical insurance that could have covered air ambulance fees out of Africa? Or, maybe you should have paid the J class fare ticket rather than being upset that you were carried to a middle seat in Y class.

  22. I’m surprised no one has raised what seems to me like an obvious point, which is the effect that this decision had on all of the other passengers on the flight. Sitting in a seat to which you’re not entitled does not actually put anyone’s safety at risk – there is no reason that hundreds of people should have their travel disrupted to deal with it. Have the guy arrested when you land at the actual destination – if occupying a premium seat that you didn’t pay for isn’t considered theft, then he can be arrested for disobeying a crew member’s instructions (which we know to be a criminal offense) or something. I agree that airlines can’t just allow people to upgrade themselves, but there is no reason that the consequences for someone who attempts to should include major inconvenience to everyone else on the plane.

  23. It’s not uncommon to see business class suddenly fill up after takeoff…many varieties of hangers-on appear from nowhere.
    This man was ill. He should have been accommodated in business or, at the very least, an empty row in economy.
    To have restrained him and then sent the plane back to London is a very silly “solution”.

  24. @Dan Allen

    Another thing I’ve seen on those “miracle” flights is an exit row full of octogenerians who literally cannot lift their bags into the overhead bin without assistance, but who happily insist that they’re capable of assisting the crew with the door in the event of an emergency. Not quite sure how the crew justifies that one in their heads…

  25. If you upgrade yourself and the crew doesn’t object good for you . If they tell you to go back to your coach seat don’t argue and don’t become loud and abusive . If they divert then turn the plane around you must have gotten a little carried away.
    Being charged for compensation to the other passengers does not seem unjustified .

  26. Prabuddha – Flights to the Azores aren’t expensive at all, you can buy a ticket for a flight leaving today for $100. Last time I was there I paid $20.

    I also hardly think you can blame airlines (however lightly) for causing temptation by having empty seats…

  27. There seem to be an increasing sense of entitlement from people. I have an illness. I have a child, I want more space for my carry on etc.

    If you want the service pay for it! If I want a 55inch TV and can only afford 45inch one is it right for me to shoplift what i want? No.

    Pay or sit where you are put.

  28. Few years ago I used to take BA business from US to London. Almost without fail, someone from economy will join the business class due to health issues! Now I got smart and only fly first…and so far, no economy patients had been upgraded to disrupt my sleep. 😉

  29. Pretty much every case of self-upgrading i’ve seen on planes (mostly to economy plus/main cabin extra) has been people complaining they dont have enough legroom and they have some random condition and they’re suffering etc…etc…etc

  30. @Brian Kusler: The real “miracle” flights are often found from the NYC metro to FLL/MIA/RSW/MCO. 20+ wheelchairs required for the departure is NOT uncommon in season. When the plane arrives in Florida, only about 1/3rd-1/2 of those people wait for a wheelchair to arrive.

  31. I don’t think there’s any side to this story; the dude tried to claim a seat he didn’t pay for, regardless if he has a medical condition or not, he wasn’t entitled to a business class seat. British Airways should stick him with the bill.

  32. He was told to return to his seat and he did not do so. I hope he was arrested and charged because they had to divert the plane due to his nonsense. If he had a medical issue then he should have said so (he claims he did but I am skeptical and it certainly doesn’t seem the issue was soo severe that he had to be moved right away). I doubt all of a sudden he developed a medical emergency that can only be cured by sitting in first class.

  33. I agree with AlexS- just charge him the difference in price. There is no reason to upset Dan Allen and give him a discounted J or C fare, though. United Airlines has clear language to address this situation in their CoC- “The passenger expressly authorizes UA to collect any additional applicable charges from the passenger arising out of a passenger occupying a class of service which is different than the class reflected on the passenger’s boarding pass.”

    So under this circumstance, you tell Mr. Bantu that a one way business class fare on BA2263 is £3645, and if he does not move back to his purchased seat, he’ll be charged the difference between his economy fare and the seat he is occupying.

    Don’t divert the plane, don’t manhandle the passenger- heck, if he stays in the business class seat, offer him champagne and an upgraded meal. However, make it clear through the whole process that he is purchasing the higher level service, and have the police waiting on arrival to make sure he pays.

    Both saves the other passengers a lot of inconvenience, saves the airlines from having to drag someone around on the plane. In the end, even if it is impossible to collect the £3645 from Mr Bantu, it’s still a lot cheaper than a diversion.

  34. wish they had given him a free upgrade to an exit row seat and then opened the emergency exit door for him
    so sick of tyranny by fake disabled people and their ridiculous demands

  35. AARP just made matters worse. Article in their latest magazine said in order to save $, wait until you’ve boarded and then, when you see seats available, just take them. Honestly, who writes these things? Makes me wonder about all of their other articles. I can just see a bunch of geriatrics now arguing with FAs, “But it said so in the AARP” in indignant voices.

  36. Just read the comment about those not able to do the exit row thing. I was once on a flight where this guy didn’t even speak ENGLISH and they let him sit there (it was a flight from one U.S city to another). Oh yeah, I feel comfortable that he’s going be a huge help in an emergency.

  37. Re this comment: “I’m surprised no one has raised what seems to me like an obvious point, which is the effect that this decision had on all of the other passengers on the flight. Sitting in a seat to which you’re not entitled does not actually put anyone’s safety at risk – there is no reason that hundreds of people should have their travel disrupted to deal with it. Have the guy arrested when you land at the actual destination – if occupying a premium seat that you didn’t pay for isn’t considered theft, then he can be arrested for disobeying a crew member’s instructions (which we know to be a criminal offense) or something. I agree that airlines can’t just allow people to upgrade themselves, but there is no reason that the consequences for someone who attempts to should include major inconvenience to everyone else on the plane.”

    I like this but announce on PA to everyone immediately that this guy is going to be arrested upon landing and then do it. Sends the message loud and clear to others who might think, “well, he got away with it…”

  38. Sorry, Lucky, I don’t. I have the hard copy. But here’s the wording:

    Money Saver – Seat Selection
    “…let the airline assign you a seat for free–usually in the back or middle. Then, shortly before departure, ask if a desirable seat has opened up that you can grab without paying extra.”

    OK, I had this wrong. They at least told folks to ask, but you know people won’t. They’ll just take. And if they do ask, then you know the arguing will then ensue. Especially for those who don’t fly much.

  39. Lucky: AARP also, on this same Money Saver page, had a blurb about changing tickets and how to save $ and they never mentioned Southwest. Once again, who writes this stuff?

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