COLORADO SPRINGS — Disruptive passengers caused two commercial airplanes to be diverted Friday, with military jets scrambling to escort a San Francisco-bound flight into a Colorado airport, authorities said.
The incidents come amid heightened concern over airline security after a Nigerian man allegedly tried to blow up a Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines plane on Christmas Day. In London late Friday, police arrested three passengers after removing them from a jetliner bound for Dubai. Officials described it only as a security incident.
Two F-16s were launched at 11:44 a.m. to catch up with AirTran Airways Flight 39 from Atlanta to San Francisco after a report that an intoxicated passenger had locked himself in a bathroom, the Colorado-based North American Aerospace Defense Command said.
The jets arrived over Colorado Springs Airport as the captain — who AirTran said had decided to divert the plane — landed there around noon, NORAD spokeswoman Stacey Knott said.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Wichita Eagle
Colorado Springs police detained the passenger, who allegedly refused to follow flight crew instructions to take his seat before locking himself in a lavatory. Canine teams searched the airplane, and the flight was cleared to continue to San Francisco.
Muhammad Abu Tahir, 46, of Virginia, was being held at the El Paso County jail, the FBI said. Federal charges for interference with a flight crew were expected to be filed Monday. His hometown was not immediately available.
Also Friday, a Hawaii-bound flight had to change course and land in Los Angeles after a man was accused of harassing a woman. The man was removed from the jet that departed Las Vegas early Friday.
The man was interviewed and released after the woman declined to press charges, Los Angeles airport police Sgt. Jim Holcomb said. The exact nature of the disruption or whether the passengers knew each other wasn't known, Holcomb said.
The Hawaiian Airlines flight resumed to Honolulu and arrived three hours late.
It was the second time this week a flight to Hawaii had to change course because of an onboard disruption.