US pilot turns UK-bound flight around after passenger refuses to wear mask

American Airlines jet bound for London forced to return to Miami 90 minutes into journey

American Airlines said the passenger was 'refusing to comply with the federal mask requirement'. Getty Images
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A US airliner headed from Miami, Florida, to London turned around on Thursday because a passenger refused to wear a Covid-19 mask, the airline said.

American Airlines Flight 38 with service from Miami to London returned to MIA [Miami International Airport] due to a disruptive customer refusing to comply with the federal mask requirement,” American Airlines said.

Flight 38 was about 90 minutes into its journey when it turned around, CBS Miami reported.

Police were waiting when the Boeing 777 carrying 129 passengers and a crew of 14 landed back in Miami.

The first-class passenger “was extremely abusive to the stewards”, fellow first-class passenger Steve Freeman told Florida news outlet Local 10.

Mr Freeman said flight attendants offered the woman several different masks to wear, but she complained about each one.

When the aircraft landed, US police escorted that passenger off the plane without incident, a police official told CNN.

American Airlines said that pending further investigation the passenger has been placed on a list of people banned from flying with the airline.

The US Federal Aviation Administration said in January 2021 it would observe a zero-tolerance policy towards people who reject federal rules mandating mask-wearing on US domestic flights.

This came as flight attendants reported a high number of incidents of verbal and physical abuse from passengers who refuse to wear a mask.

The FAA filed 5,981 unruly passenger reports last year. Of those, 4,290 were mask related. This year, the FAA has already recorded 151 reports of unruly passengers – 92 of which are related to face masks.

US President Joe Biden in December extended the federal mask mandate for travel through mid-March.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Updated: January 21, 2022, 6:56 PM