United Flight To Tel Aviv Returns To Newark Over Self-Upgraders, American Flight To London Returns To Miami Over Mask Dispute

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Airlines have faced an unprecedented amount of in-flight incidents over the pandemic. Given how contentious the mask issue is, I suppose that’s not a surprise.

Last year I wrote a PSA about how not to get kicked off your flight. The gist of it is to ensure that you go beyond the letter of the law during the boarding process. Flight attendants are watching like hawks to identify passengers that may cause issues in the air as it’s a whole lot easier to deboard passengers on the ground than after takeoff. To be safe, feed your kids before you board and don’t eat or give them snacks until the flight takes off.

But airlines are proving that they are willing to divert flights after takeoff as well.

Last night United flight 90, operated on a Boeing 787-10, departed Newark on time at 11pm, scheduled to arrive into Tel Aviv at 4:20pm. That’s candle-lighting time in Jerusalem, so presumably there were no Sabbath observant Jews on the flight.

Israel’s onerous entry restrictions and the timing of the flight also meant there was a very light load. The 787-10 can accommodate 318 passengers, but only 123 passengers and 11 crewmembers were onboard flight 90.

As often happens with flight diversions to and from Tel Aviv, DDF was on the case immediately. DDF member @Matovu noticed the flight had turned around over Canada early this morning and asked what was happening. And DDF member @no_clue tuned into air traffic control and heard them say that law enforcement are on standby.


United.com said the plane returned to Newark to “address an urgent customer service issue.” It wound up flying over 2 hours to nowhere.


I reached out to United last night for comment and they responded that,

“United flight 90 from New York/Newark to Tel Aviv on 20 January 2022 returned to New York/Newark Airport due to disruptive passengers on board. Law enforcement officials met the aircraft upon landing. The flight was subsequently cancelled. Our team at New York/Newark have provided our customers with meal vouchers and hotel accommodation and have made arrangements for customers to complete their journeys.”

Israel’s channel 12 has more details.

They say that 2 Israeli passengers decided to self-upgrade themselves to business class. that’s a big no-no, but that’s not typically enough to cause a flight to divert. Passengers doing that will be sent back to coach and will face charges and/or a flight ban upon arrival. However a passenger on the flight said that these 2 people began to “riot” after they were questioned by flight attendants, which led to the flight returning to Newark. Port Authority Police met the flight upon its return and removed the disruptive passengers.

United tried getting the flight out again, but the crew timed out and United wasn’t able to put together another crew in middle of the night, so the flight was cancelled. That also meant that United was forced to cancel tonight’s flight 91 from Tel Aviv to Newark.

If you have the miles and want to sit in business class without squatting, booking a United Plan B award ticket is ideal for empty flights like this!

United wasn’t the only airline to divert this week over a passenger issue.

American flight 38, operated on their flagship Boeing 777-300ER from Miami to London on Wednesday also had to return to the gate, also flying 2 hours to nowhere. The 77W can accommodate 304 passengers, but only 129 passengers and 14 crewmembers were onboard flight 38.

A woman on the flight refused to wear a mask and American says that the flight was diverted due to “a disruptive customer refusing to comply with the federal mask requirement.” The passenger was escorted off the plane in Miami and the flight was cancelled.

That also meant that American was forced to cancel last night’s flight 57 from London to Miami.

Flight attendants are on edge with all of these incidents and many aren’t exactly known for deescalating situations. After all, the massive cost to divert and cancel a flight isn’t coming out of their paycheck and they’re simply not properly trained to deescalate.

If you do find yourself in a situation like this, just comply with the request, even if you are following the rules. There are certainly many situations where passengers are completely in the wrong, but there are also flight attendants who are on a power trip, in which case you will want to record what’s happening. Sticking a phone camera in their face will likely escalate the situation further, but even just holding the phone down low to record the audio and potentially some video will be helpful to your cause.

Somehow, I’ve been on countless flights around the globe, but have yet to be diverted. Have you been on any flight diversions? What was at fault?

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101 Comments On "United Flight To Tel Aviv Returns To Newark Over Self-Upgraders, American Flight To London Returns To Miami Over Mask Dispute"

All opinions expressed below are user generated and the opinions aren’t provided, reviewed or endorsed by any advertiser or DansDeals.


Airlines have got to come up with a method to have a depressurized pod they can open and throw these people out of the plane


You mean throw the slight attendants off right?


Agree. Funniest thing in the thread are all these period trying to one up each other. Wow


Airlines should just start holding card information for incidentals, like hotels do. You want to self upgrade? You owe the cost of the seat plus a $500 service charge billed to your card on file.


That’s a good one


Flew TLV-EWR last night. Abought an hour into the flight, I was woken up by a flight attendant, because my mask slipped and wasn’t fully covering my whole nose. Later on in the flight, I saw this same flight attendant serving food/drinks with his own mask not covering his nose. Extremely frustrating to woken up on a flight and not necessarily will I fall back asleep so fast, for what??? was it his job to do a final mask check before they dim the lights?


Had the same experience. United EWR-TLV.


Curious was this economy or business?


Video the whole thing? Say something to them?


I’ve self-upgraded to premium without issue. Worst case you apologize and take your assigned seat.


That’s just gross. You didn’t pay for it.


The difference between you and folks on this United flight is that you would simply apologize and comply. The folks on this United flight rioted and didn’t follow verbal instruction, forcing law enforcement to become involved. I disagree that it’s considered theft. If that’s theft, then moving one seat over from a middle to empty aisle seat is theft too; as window/aisle is sold at a higher rate than the middle.


@shmo said he moved to premium Which is just economy with more leg room. Business class is another story, and will be stopped every time, especially since it come with a lot more service

Loren Pechtel

It’s considered theft when you move to another class of service. Normally they don’t care if you move to an empty seat in the same class of service. (Although I have been on one flight they actually made us all move to first class–they misloaded cargo and they needed us as far forward as possible.)


It only happened to me once… just so happened to be the one time I decided to mix between airlines (avios and SW). I was on a nonstop LIM-MCO on Latam (booked with avios), followed by MCO-MDW. Apparently there was an issue with the paperwork, and the fuel was too heavy to land right away, so they had to fly 2 hours out and then 2 hours back. Massively annoying. We arrived to MCO around midnight. Of course, it was southwest so I could get my miles back, but there was nothing reasonable for the next leg. I ended up with a cash fare on Spirit, which was actually not too bad. And LATAM put me up at the Hyatt in MCO, which was convenient and nice. Anyway: lesson learned!


(To be clear, I canceled the SW flight before it took off, but all the other SW flights were unavailable or crazy expensive)


I flew UA85 yesterday TLV-EWR. Pretty empty flight. Was a warning before takeoff not to move up to Economy Plus, and you would be charged. Guess they didn’t think anyone would have the Chutzpah to self upgrade all the way to Business.


I was on a an Alitalia flight JFK – ROME years ago which turned back 1 hr into the flight bc of a fuel leak – we landed with fire engines lined up!


Reminds me of a passenger flying from New York to London sitting in business class after self upgrading, and the flight attendants couldn’t reason with him, he was staying there. The neogtiated, screamed, but nothign worked.

They called the captain, and the captain was talking to him, exchanging a few words and all of a sudden he went back to economy class. The crew stood there wondering what magic did the captain do that we weren’t able to do for the last 30 minutes??? So they asked the captain what he did. The captain said that he simply asked the passenger where he is flying to, and the passenger said that he flies to London, and I told him that only in the back of the plane we fly to London, this part of the plane flies to Spain…So he stood up and went to the back of the plane. Doi lacht men.


There was once a heimisher yid sitting on first class, he calls the flight attendant and complains that the fellow next to him had a economy ticket and had self upgraded. The FA made sure the neighbor went back to his seat.
After the flight, the asked the hid, how did you know your neighbor had an economy ticket?
He answered: I saw his ticket was the same color as mine..
(פה צריכים לצחוק)


haha that’s a really good one! Need more humor in these comments


My first flight on El Al to Israel as a child – I remember the plane having to make an unscheduled stop in London due to a sick passenger. It was only 11 years old, but the chatter was that this passenger wanted to die in E”Y and didn’t make it. This was a Thursday flight, luckily it was summertime. After 2 hours in London, we did ultimately land before Shabbat, but with maybe 90 mins or so to clear customs and make it to Tel Aviv. Anyone going further than that, probably didn’t make it in time.


All for the Airlines drawing the line. Even the responses carry a hefty dose of “what can I get away with” and “all the other kids were doing it”. As an Israeli myself (with 3+ Million AA miles), some of my countrymen are pigs on flights, in hotels and many other social settings. And as noted theft is theft. FAs put up with an enormous amount of garbage, so no surprise that being humans as well, some have adopted an offensive persona as a strong defense. Ban these jerks from flights period. Obviously they figured they could get away with anything, after all they are not going to turn the plane around. Ha!


I was diverted MIA-SFO to PHX when the cabin filled with smoke. Passengers were crying and praying. BH all turned out ok.

IIRC everyone automatically received a $200 voucher.


This should be a lesson for all. No Smoking. Even in the Bathroom.


Smoke was from the plane landing gear iirc or something not a human.

But yes, don’t smoke, ever. Agree with that 🙂


DFW LAX diverted to ELP(El Paso) for passenger with heart attack. We sat in terminal on a Sunday night for 4 hours until a ground crew supervisor could drive to field. Their flight operations had closed hours earlier. We collected money from the passengers to bribe the waitress in the only place open to please stay. I think we al got a couple of thousand miles with an apology note.

Let\'s go!

I wonder if they stayed in Business class once the flight turned back…hope other passengers weren’t carrying tomatoes!


You would think that de-escalation training for flight attendants would be a good investment for the airlines.

Loren Pechtel

No, because they don’t want to be in a position of dealing with non-compliant people in the first place. People who aren’t willing to comply with instructions over something like this are also likely not to comply with instructions when the plane is in trouble. Things like not checking if it’s safe before opening an emergency exit…


Wouldn’t the cost of one diverted flight, especially when including the other flights cancelled because the plane and crew is not in the right place cover a year’s worth of de-escalation training?

Eric in Memphis

Since it sounds like you have to buy a Plan B ticket over the phone with an agent, are you charged a fee?


We were coming home from Israel on Iberian Air. 1 hour after leaving Spain, a bird hit the windshield causing a slight crack. We had to turn around and go back to Spain.

The One Who Does Not Know How to Ask a Question

1 hour into a flight, the plane is at 30,000 ft. What hit the windshield wasn’t a bird. Superman? SUPERMAN!!!

Living in Eretz Yisroel now

I had that thirty years ago, flying from LA to NY (stop over in Atlanta). We were diverted to Amarillo Texas. I pulled out the camcorder, filmed the cracked windshield, and showed footage to the news stations that came. Stupid stupid move. The entire plan was in front of me in line to rebook and I was flying solo with two small children.

I went to the pay phone banks and called the airlines to rebook! Lol


Epic story.

(Care to share the footage? 😉 )

Lexus or Toyota

Who is responsible for the costs of flight diversions when passengers are at fault?


Years ago an ElAL flight had to make an emergency landing for someone in labor. Elal sent the ‘bill’ with a big Mazel Tov and stamped paid in full. I think Henoch Teller wrote it up in one of his books.


True story. A family member was on the plane.


I flew MIA-EWR last week on Jetblue. Also a 70% flight. Most of the flight crew were pleasant, but there was that one flight attendant with a little bit of an attitude. He made a comment along the lines of “We have a 3 strikes and your out rule. If a member of the crew has to ask you to remask more than 3 times, you will be met in newark by the police”.


Was his name Frank?
I had issues with an attendant named frank, pronounced Fronk.


YYZ to TLV someone in first class went into cardiac arrest. Diverted to Munich. Flight attendants continues CPR until medics could come on board and declare him dead. They had sweat pouring down their faces.


I was diverted lax to Jfk because woman was going into labor or something. Pulled up to 770 right after the chupa ended


I was flying fll-Newark this summer. Flight was diverted to Baltimore for a medical emergency.


1) this is a disgrace to our people.
2) how disruptive to all the people on this flight and the flight back to EWR.
3) huge out of pocket cost to UA. Hotel rooms/food in EWR + cancelled flight going back to EWR (accommodating people in TLV too?). They should throw the book at these guys.


Think of all the money that UAL saved. There should be a law against flying huge jets thousands of miles with a one/third passenger load.


it was probly not jews


Pax obviously wrong. But please don’t feel so bad for United’s loss…
Besides, as Dan mentioned, airlines should better trained to de-escalate cases like this. We’re not talking about a security threat. We’re talking about something relatively stupid.


Based on the day of the flight, likely not frum.


I hope they charge these idiots to the fullest extent of the law. United took a huge financial hit on this, but also passengers have things to do. Imagine, someone could miss a birthday, a funeral, a WHATEVER. These assaults on flight attendants also have me very angry. Wearing a mask is stupid. FINE. Stay home if you can’t cosplay though.


I once flew AA JFK-MIA. Ended up diverting to Dan’s backyard.

Shlomo Rabinowitz

They must have compensated everyone on that flight with 1 million miles lol!


“And beyond the civil penalties plus compensation and restitution for United, these passengers should be put into a labor camp to build American roads or bridges. 16 hours per day. Seven days per week…

(I’m not even joking)

What a mess. What an avoidable mess.”

Some other bloggers have written this – while I dont condone the behavior at all; I find some of the reactions equally disgusting

mark n

Just wondering . Why is the question of whether there were shabbos observant jews on the plane relevant ? A whole paragraph for that ?


I was interested in that observation, so I guess it’s relevant to me (and I assume others as well even if it was of no interest to you).

Shlomo Rabinowitz

Because otherwise you would be calling the FA´s antisemites!
Be Honest!


1 – I was on the famous elal “Shabbos Flight” 3 years ago. Diverted to Athens… ’nuff said!
2 – was on UA84 last Thursday afternoon (EWR/TLV). First sick passenger sent us back to the gate from the runway. 3 hour delay on takeoff. Second sick passenger was treated in the air for severe allergic reaction about 3 hours into the flight and stabilized. The frum clientele behaved horribly. Standing in the aisles, refusing to wear masks, demanding seat changes, called the head FA “a dumb shikse” and woke up half the plane mid flight to daven in the galleys. Worst chilul hashem I’ve seen on a flight in years.

I wish they would have arrested a few.. Lessons must be taught that civil behavior is mandatory!


Your right, but publicizing it on a public forum isn’t a smaller chilul hashem.


well said thanks!

Loren Pechtel

Los Angeles? to Tokyo, bad headwinds, we put down in Seattle for extra fuel but then continued on to Tokyo.

next flight:

Tokyo to Taipei–airport closed due to the edges of a typhoon, the plane went on to it’s next stop, Hong Kong. They kept us around for a while and then stuck us on the flight going the other way, at that point Taipei was open.

IIRC these were flights #2 and #3 that I took in my life. Since then I’ve only had one go-round because someone was late on starting their takeoff roll and we didn’t have a clear runway.


On one flight I asked a flight attendant if it would be possible for her to help me avoid sitting between two men. She came over to me once all the passengers had boarded and reseated me in premium – in a completely empty row. Another passenger moved there on his own, and was told to return to his seat.


I was on UA85 last week in a premium+ seat and the flight was also very very empty. A flight attendant went to the person sitting in front of me and some words were exchanged and then the person stood up and went back to his economy seat. Glad it didn’t escalate

Old Guy

Once, way back when, we diverted emergency to a different airport with a short runway. The plane used up the entire length before coming to a hard stop.

As we left the plane I told the captain that I was scared. He answered “So was I”.


Lol. Glad you still kept on flying since then.


I was flying TLV-YYZ on Elal few years back. Lady plopped herself in Eco+ seat with about 8 bags. Refused to show her ticket or move. Kept saying “Kein, ani kahn”. Flight attendants kept trying to reason with her for 30 min. Finally the pilot – big Israeli guy – comes out and yells in Hebrew “Move or get off the plane!” And she slooooowly gathered up her stuff and moved back.


On a recent United flight FLL-EWR, pilot announced that they could not begin to taxi. Reason, he explained, was a passenger in the back who refused to wear his mask. Almost all passengers started yelling and cursing the unmasked passenger to get the heck off the plane. Almost looked like a lynching mob. Within a minute he practically ran off the plane while being booed. Smart move of the pilot and flight attendants who sat back and allowed the passengers to do their dirty work.


These passengers are way out of line but barring a situation where there is a danger to the crew or other passengers why divert midair? Why don’t they continue to the destination and have the police there deal with it?

Eric from Dallas

years ago, domestic flight on AA. Shortly after takeoff an older man two rows in front of me has a medical emergency, his face turned purple. His arms are straight out, the two people on either side of him (his kids?) are clutching his hands for dear life. I was so scared for him. About a minute later, as the flight attendants are trying to help him, I see a thick stream of something coming off the wing. I knew right away what it was – they were dumping fuel before returning to the airport. I got a picture of the wing with the fuel coming out. It took a while till the EMTs got on board to remove him, by then he seemed to be OK, baruch Hashem


On that same day Thursday Jan 20 th,my daughter was on a flight from jfk to mia. As they approached MIA the captain announced that due to a weather delay and lack of enough fuel,the flight would be diverted to FLL for a refuel !
No one was allowed off the plane. No snacks offered after 15 mins.
After an hour of a teenage “give me $15 worth”of refueling and while approaching the runway back to Miami the pilot announced that they would be returning to the gate as certain passengers were demanding to deplane.
An announcement was also made that all bags would remain on board and would only be available for pick up in Miami.Passengers felt falsely imprisoned.
After another teenage “ $15 worth” of re- fuel the flight arrived in MIA 4 hours later.
Note – 1)no bad weather.
2)Other then another American Airlines flight diverted to FLL NO OTHER airlines were diverted.
3)flights on Delta that left at the same time had no diversions or issues.
Of course Jet FUEL-LESS refused to compensate her stating that ATC required the diversion for weather. I informed them that weather was not the cause for the diversion and that but for the lack of fuel the flight would’ve been able to land within 20 mins.
When they finally admitted that the diverted overseas flight was the cause, they still claimed that they were not liable for the diversion.
They also refused to refund her $35 for her broken seat back.
Nonetheless folks , it’s important for everyone to know that boarding any jet blue flight is putting your life at risk. I will never forget the carnage of the AVIANCA flight that crashed on Long Island due to the lack of fuel in the 1990’s.


Um, I believe the flight tragedy you refer to was Aerolíneas Argentinas.


No, I was referring to avianca flight 52, January 25,1990.


So I am making my way through the various cabin classes, and finally in the way back of the plane in the last row, i see my neighbor, an elderly gentleman, extremely wealthy individual, sitting in this claustrophobic small economy seat, with no leg room. I could not stop myself from asking him.”moshe, you of all people are sitting in this lousy seat??”with out hesitation he responds, why is there something cheaper??!!!!!!


i actually heard from someone that he knows such a person. a fellow that can easily afford first class everywhere he goes but purposefully flies economy. he explained that he has no problem spending thousands of dollars on a nice vacation suite or hotel room where he will be staying for a few days. but to spend 5k on a 10 hour flight, he just cant justify the money.


Such a waste of money. Just land the plane in Israel and then blacklist the problematic passengers


Why go back to EWR? Especially if there was a “riot” onboard, shouldn’t they do it emergency landing at the closest airport?


Hilarious at all these people trying to justify it’s not theft to move yourself to business class on your own. No wonder centers of influence have to issue guidance on these issues as people have little ability to form their own morals.


I ready some of the comments below and think some of the halachic arguments reflect an attitude of naval birshut halacha. Generally, I don’t understand how somebody who cares about halacha can try to argue that it would be allowed to take a better seat without paying for it.

Link to one article and another one below: https://www.koltorah.org/halachah/moving-to-better-seats-at-a-ball-game-by-rabbi-chaim-jachter

Halakhic Positions of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik

by R. Aharon Ziegler

Would Halacha permit one to move to an unoccupied, better and far more expensive seat at a concert that is more than half over, when it is clear that no one will be sitting in those seats for the duration of the concert?

The nature of a Jew is to be benevolent and giving of ourselves to others. The Mishnah in Avot (5:10) condemns individuals who are stingy with their property or belongings, claiming “what is mine is mine, what is yours is yours”, in other words, don’t ask anything of me and I won’t ask anything from you, that the Mishnah calls- is a Midat Sedom. This attitude has to be negated and Beit Din has the authority to coerce individuals into giving and sharing when there is no inconvenience or loss of time or money, as long as Zeh Neheneh VeZeh Lo Chaseir.(Bava Kama 20a) This concept has been incorporated into Halacha by Rambam (Hilchot Shecheinim 7:8). Thus, we should not demand payment for gas and tolls from someone who asked us for a ride home, if he did not take us out of our way. The passenger benefits, Zeh Neheneh, and to the driver it’s no loss of time or money, VeZeh Lo Chaseir. So, perhaps we could argue that by moving into a better seat will be beneficial to me (Zeh Neheneh) and its no loss to the theater managers (VeZeh Lo Chaseir) and therefore, permissible. But that is not necessarily so.

Tosafot (B”K 20b) explicitly states that a property owner enjoys the right to keep people out of his property even though he does not want to rent his property. The Rama explains (Choshen Mishpat 359;1, 363), that just because the property owner chooses not to rent out a particular piece of property, that does not give the public a right to demand free access to the property.

Rav Soloveitchik explained that the rule of “Zeh Neheneh VeZeh Lo Chaseir” is only a question of BeDi’eved, once the event occurred. And the question would be, “Does the property owner have the right to demand payment after the fact?” But LeChatchila, (initially), it is forbidden to use someone’s property without permission. As a matter of fact, Rav Soloveitchik would instruct community rabbis not to install any portion of the Eiruv without permission; otherwise, it would be a Mitzvah HaBa’a BeAveirah.

The concept of Kofin Al Midat Sedom only comes to play in matters of serious need, such as a place to live. The need for someone in a place of entertainment to move to a more expensive seat in order to enhance the quality of the entertainment is not an appropriate reason to coerce the management to allow seat changes without payment.

Finally, observant Jews tend to display their identity, wearing Kippot and modest dress. Since it is very noticeable when someone has moved to seats which were not paid for, the potential for creating a Chillul HaShem is very great. Changing seats is generally regarded as unrefined behavior and should be avoided, unless permission is given to do so.

(Source: Rabbi Chaim Jachter)


that post also mentioned, albeit briefly, about a self-upgrade on a plane:

“Furthermore, stadium owners have every reason to object to people randomly moving seats. There is a need to instill a sense of order and discipline at a stadium, and allowing people to move about, each according to what is appropriate in his eyes, creates a sense of pandemonium. A sense of order is certainly necessary in these circumstances, since alcohol is served at such events, and the potential for disorder is great. Therefore, it is entirely reasonable for stadium owners to enforce discipline by objecting to fans moving seats without permission. Could one imagine airplane passengers randomly moving into unoccupied seats in the business class or first class sections of an airplane? Such behavior is simply unheard of and understandably not tolerated by airlines.”


I noticed this same behavior when flying AA last year TLV-MIA. A group of Israeli guys, decided to self-upgrade to Prem Econ.

The FA asked them if they had upgraded, and if not they needed to go back to their seats in Econ. One said he did, others ask what’s the issue and that if needed they would pay – the FA said they should have paid before but that now was too late.

They ended up moving to the front of the Econ section, which I dont believe were their seats, if I recall they asked if those seats were fine and the FA said yes. Those however would have still been an upgraded seat, but I suppose the crew juat didnt want them to upgrade to another class without paying.

Ffwd to after the flight is going and it’s time to dim the lights, everyone’s going to sleep. A couple of these guys come back to the Prem Econ area, one lays in front of the front middle seats on the floor and another sits in the back seat. I check the area of Econ they went to and see yet another guy on spread out on the floor.

FA only noticed them and had them move back from Prem Econ and/or off the floor back to their seats – or at least the ones they acquisitioned.

I’ve never thought of moving like that and suppose these guys figured Prem Econ is not as prized as Business so why would anyone care. Well I would not have been too happy since I paid for my seat – I would not have (did not) complain to the FAs, but probably would have said something after the flight.

Also I thought AAs product was not really up to par as compared to other Prem Econ on a similar flight plan. I only took it do to the NS aspect, still wondering if a stop-over would have been worth it for better product and service