Delta’s Disturbing Oklahoma City Flight Diversion

Delta’s Disturbing Oklahoma City Flight Diversion

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We’ve seen a significant uptick in “air rage” incidents in recent months, though this is terrifying on a different level.

What caused a Delta flight to divert

This story involves Delta flight 1730 from Los Angeles to Atlanta on Friday, June 11, 2021. The flight was scheduled to depart Los Angeles at 5:45PM and arrive in Atlanta at 1:06AM, but ended up being delayed by several hours due to a diversion to Oklahoma City.

According to reports, the incident unfolded when a passenger seated in the first row of first class handed a note to the flight attendant claiming that the passenger next to him was a terrorist. Apparently the passenger then made a PA telling people to prepare to put on their oxygen masks, and then he allegedly tried to open the emergency exit door. Fortunately it’s virtually impossible to open that at cruising altitude, due to the difference in pressurization between the inside and outside of the cabin.

At this point the passenger needed to be subdued. The captain made an announcement asking for “all-able bodied men” to come to the front of the cabin to restrain the passenger. There’s video footage of the man being restrained, and it’s kind of chilling to see.

Other passengers managed to restrain the aggressor all the way until the plane was able to land in Oklahoma City, at which point the man was arrested. Kudos to the passengers for stepping up so selflessly to help the crew get the situation under control.

This was an off-duty flight attendant?!?

While we’ve seen quite some air rage incidents in recent months, they’ve mostly involved frustrated travelers having disagreements over masks, etc. In this case (for better or worse, depending on how you look at it), it seems that the person in question was probably dealing with some sort of mental issues.

There are a couple of particularly surprising details that have emerged here. First of all, the man who caused this incident was wearing a white helmet for most of the flight. It sure seems like something is a bit “off” there:

  • Admittedly it’s not illegal to wear a helmet on a plane, though it is unusual
  • Was this guy wearing a helmet because he boarded the flight expecting to get into a confrontation like this?
  • Perhaps some people assumed he was just looking to transport a helmet, and at that point it might be easiest to just wear it on your head (or something)?

What makes this story even stranger is that CNN quotes a Delta spokesperson as confirming that the passenger involved in the incident was in fact an off-duty flight attendant. I’d be skeptical of that detail if it weren’t for official confirmation from Delta. For that matter, the fact that the man knew how to operate the PA suggests that he had some operational knowledge, so perhaps that lends further credibility to the claim.

It goes without saying that there are bad (or disturbed?) “apples” in every line of work. It’s scary enough to see something like this happen in general, and even scarier to see an employee who presumably has airside access without going through security act this way.

I hope the guy gets the help he needs, and also that he’s not in a position where something like this can happen again.

Bottom line

A Friday evening Delta flight from Los Angeles to Atlanta had to divert to Oklahoma City after a passenger wearing a helmet tried to get on the PA to tell passengers to put on their oxygen masks, while also attempting to open the emergency exit. Reports suggest that this person was an off-duty Delta flight attendant, which makes all of this even more concerning.

This has to be one of the wilder aircraft diversion stories we’ve heard in quite a while…

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  1. MoJoe

    This is an outlandish incident that, unfortunately, has become more and more commonplace. Seems the biggest impact of the coronavirus pandemic hasn't been respiratory illness but mental madness.

  2. Chris

    Well I couldn't agree that the _biggest_ impact has been to mental wellness since the death toll from coronavirus is staggering and ongoing but yes, our society as a whole desperately needs several rounds of psychological counseling moving forward. Just imagine what air travel might be like if this psychotic behavior becomes the norm- or even occurs on a measurable percentage of flights. Who will feel comfortable travelling if there is even a 1% chance...

    Well I couldn't agree that the _biggest_ impact has been to mental wellness since the death toll from coronavirus is staggering and ongoing but yes, our society as a whole desperately needs several rounds of psychological counseling moving forward. Just imagine what air travel might be like if this psychotic behavior becomes the norm- or even occurs on a measurable percentage of flights. Who will feel comfortable travelling if there is even a 1% chance that someone is going to have a break with reality and perform bizarre actions like trying to open a door mid-flight (impossible though that may be to carry out) or rush the cockpit (again, not actually possible post- 9/11).

  3. Endre

    Thank Buddha that bloke on the right was brave enough to film the incident.

  4. DaninMCI

    Off-duty FA in first class that should know you can't likely open a door in flight while wearing a helmet. Interesting. I know odd things have happened for years but why is it that stuff like this has escalated post-covid?

  5. KL

    True millennial on the right there, filming with his phone, votes Biden/Harris for sure

    1. Alan

      True boomer right here. You have a short memory, remember that failed insurrection your compatriots held in January? How they all got caught because they filmed it on their phones? Take several seats.

    2. Lisa

      Why bring in any political talking points into this conversation? The story is about mental illness or issues possibly causing the Off duty Delta Flight attendant to act out the way he did. Not about anyone's political parry.

  6. Alan

    I wonder if he had recently had brain surgery or a brain injury, hence the helmet and strange behavior.

    1. Ivanbou

      I think you may be on to something here. This guy seems to have some kind of a mental break. A surgery may have contributed here.

  7. DblTap

    I’m not sure stopping someone from trying to open the door mid flight is “selfless”. I can assure you I need no more fist fights in my life but if you try and F with the plane I’m on….ohhhhh I’m going to town.

  8. Mfb123

    I’m curious if he was flying non-rev? If he was, wouldn’t a gate agent (or on-duty attendant) have asked “what’s with the helmet?” before he boarded? You see everything with the general public, but non-revs know the standards to expect from each other. Also, was it ever confirmed that it was a Delta flight attendant? The question from Alan is a good one I had not thought of.

  9. derek

    The request was for all able bodied men. Not women. Sexism?

    1. Steve

      This pilot should be fired and cancelled immediately!!!!!

  10. keitherson

    Had to do this on an Alaska redeye last month: restrain a passenger to the floor who was having a schizophrenic episode and the plane had to divert.

  11. Doc

    FYI, flight attendants go through airport security just like everyone else. Often they have an employee checkpoint, but it has xrays and metal detectors, and everyone working at the airport -- including the pilots -- goes through it.

    1. Sam

      This is absolutely incorrect. Flight attendants and pilots have access to Known Crewmember, which is an expedited entry point to the terminal without having to go through security. Only a small number are flagged as “random” and sent to the main security checkpoint. Even then, you still have much more flexibility than the general public as to what you can take through the security check point.

  12. Scrappy

    "Fortunately it’s virtually impossible to open that at cruising altitude, due to the difference in pressurization between the inside and outside of the cabin."

    Totally minor point but the pressure inside the plane is typically greater than outside, it's usually maintained at a pressure equivalent to about 8,000 ft above sea level.

    Not going to speculate what happened with the off-duty flight attendant but I think it's clear he/they were suffering from some sort of...

    "Fortunately it’s virtually impossible to open that at cruising altitude, due to the difference in pressurization between the inside and outside of the cabin."

    Totally minor point but the pressure inside the plane is typically greater than outside, it's usually maintained at a pressure equivalent to about 8,000 ft above sea level.

    Not going to speculate what happened with the off-duty flight attendant but I think it's clear he/they were suffering from some sort of mental or emotional illness and I'm glad everyone remained safe. I will say flight attendants have received a massive amount of abuse from passengers this year.

  13. Jim

    Safe to say he's now a FORMER off duty flight attendant.....?

  14. Kent

    Man - another incident in the US. Seems like the US is the in-flight confrontation capital of the world. Never in fifty years of traveling around the world have I encountered such experiences except from in the USA. Disgusting.

    Seems like mental illness is on a rise in the US.

    BTW - opening the emergency door is not "virtually" impossible but simply impossible at that altitude.

    1. yomomma

      Trump is just a symptom of serious illness in America where dumb people have managed to get outsized power at every level.

  15. shoeguy

    The incident aboard that flight (and the rising number of such events) says a lot about America. There is simply no excuse for this (and I am an American). Yes, flying was a decidedly unpleasant experience before the pandemic and it certainly hasn't improved particularly if you have to fly coach, but there's no excuse for this. I was aboard a transcontinental flight just the other day and a mother of 2 who was settling...

    The incident aboard that flight (and the rising number of such events) says a lot about America. There is simply no excuse for this (and I am an American). Yes, flying was a decidedly unpleasant experience before the pandemic and it certainly hasn't improved particularly if you have to fly coach, but there's no excuse for this. I was aboard a transcontinental flight just the other day and a mother of 2 who was settling her kids into their seats as the boarding door was closing, was politely asked by the flight attendant to be seated so we could push back. The mother barked at the flight attendant and said it 'wasn't her problem" and called her a "bitch". Americans can't seem to get out of each other's way.

  16. william j trabert

    i bring a bicycle as baggage and wear my bike helmet on board.
    god what else can be banned on board. now i cant wear my bike helmet. is anything left that i cant bring. how about my yoga mat is that a weapon

    1. Wyle E.

      Given time, some idiot (terrorist-?) will find a way to weaponize a Yoga mat!

Featured Comments Load all 23 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Alan

True boomer right here. You have a short memory, remember that failed insurrection your compatriots held in January? How they all got caught because they filmed it on their phones? Take several seats.

Alan

I wonder if he had recently had brain surgery or a brain injury, hence the helmet and strange behavior.

Lisa

Why bring in any political talking points into this conversation? The story is about mental illness or issues possibly causing the Off duty Delta Flight attendant to act out the way he did. Not about anyone's political parry.

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