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Flight from NY to Tel Aviv turns back after two unruly Israelis grab business seats

Passengers said to raise ruckus after sitting in business class, refusing to prove to cabin crew they had tickets for it; pilot returns to NY, pair arrested

View of a United Airlines flight at Ben Gurion International Airport on August 3, 2013. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)
View of a United Airlines flight at Ben Gurion International Airport on August 3, 2013. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Two Israeli passengers caused a plane flying out of New York to turn back and land, as they clashed with cabin crew after allegedly refusing to prove they had tickets to sit in business class seats, Hebrew media reported Friday.

The two passengers were arrested after the plane landed in New York.

The United Airlines overnight flight had set off at 11 p.m. local time Thursday for Tel Aviv, where it had been scheduled to arrive on Friday afternoon.

Passenger Roi Eitan told Channel 12 News that approximately 90 minutes into the flight, an argument erupted between the two Israeli passengers and cabin staff.

The flight, he said, was half full and the two passengers in question apparently decided to take advantage of the situation and went to sit in the business section.

When flight attendants eventually asked the two to prove they had boarding passes entitling them to the seats, they refused to comply, he said.

As the argument became more heated, the captain decided to turn the plane around and returned to New York.

Police board a United Airlines Tel Aviv-bound flight that turned back to Newark, January 20, 2022 (Channel 12 screenshot)

A video aired by the network showed police boarding the plane to arrest the two Israelis. The rest of the passengers were taken off the aircraft and Roi told Channel 12 it was not clear when they would be put on another flight to Israel.

Religious travelers would likely only board another flight if it were due to arrive before the start of Shabbat at sundown in Israel.

In a statement reported by Channel 12, United Airlines said that the safety of its passengers “is above all” and that the company does not tolerate any “inappropriate behavior.”

There have been several incidents in recent years of unruly Israeli passengers disrupting flights.

An Israeli was kicked off a flight from Austria in 2015 for unruly behavior and for mistreating a flight attendant.

In January 2016 an Israeli passenger caused an Austrian Airlines flight from Vienna to New York to divert to Canada.

A year later, a plane traveling from Budapest to Tel Aviv made an emergency landing due to a drunk and disruptive Israeli passenger.

In 2018 ultra-Orthodox passengers on a flight that took off late from New York caused an uproar over fears they would not land until after the beginning of Shabbat. The flight was forced to divert to Greece.

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