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A passenger refused to wear a mask on a London-bound flight, the pilot turned the plane around

American and United Airlines jets are temporarily stored west of the terminals Wednesday, March 25, 2020, at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix. Picture: AP Photo/Matt York

American and United Airlines jets are temporarily stored west of the terminals Wednesday, March 25, 2020, at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix. Picture: AP Photo/Matt York

Published Jan 21, 2022

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By Hannah Sampson

An American Airlines flight heading to London on Wednesday turned around about an hour after leaving Miami when a "disruptive customer" refused to wear a mask, the airline said.

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No one was hurt, and the Boeing 777 landed safely at Miami International Airport at 9.24 pm, American Airlines spokesman Curtis Blessing said in an email.

Officers with the Miami-Dade Police Department escorted the passenger, a woman believed to be in her 40s, off the plane without incident. Argemis Colome, a department spokesman, said the passenger was not arrested and police treated the incident as a disturbance call.

"She was pretty much dealt with administratively by the airline," Colome said.

Blessing said the passenger has been placed on the airline's list of customers who are not allowed to fly pending additional investigation.

The flight with 129 passengers and 14 crew was cancelled; travellers were booked on other flights.

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"We thank our crew for their professionalism and apologise to our customers for the inconvenience," he said in an emailed statement.

It was just the latest example of disruptive behaviour by an air traveller, which reached record levels in 2021. The Federal Aviation Administration said it received 5,981 reports of unruly passengers, 4,290 of which were mask-related last year. As of Tuesday, the number this year had reached 151 cases, with 92 related to masks.

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