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Chaos on Zurich-Bound Flight: Passenger’s Aggressive Behavior Forces Return to New Jersey

Swiss Airlines (Credits: PYOK)

A flight bound for Zurich was compelled to return to New Jersey after an aggressive passenger assaulted the crew and made attempts to breach the cockpit, according to Swiss Airlines.

Shortly after Swiss International Air Lines Flight LX19 departed from Newark Liberty International Airport at around 9:55 p.m. on Sunday evening, the pilot of the Airbus A330 notified air traffic control of a disruptive passenger.

Using the aviation code for “possible assistance needed,” the pilot urgently radioed, “PAN-PAN, PAN-PAN, PAN-PAN.”

Flight forced to return to Neward (Credits: Daily Mail)

As per logged air traffic control audio, the pilot informed controllers that the passenger, who was freely moving about the cabin, was escalating in behavior and had even made an attempt to access the cockpit.

“We don’t know if he can get aggressive toward passengers or crew,” the pilot conveyed at one point.

The Airbus A330 returned to Newark and landed shortly before 11 p.m., as confirmed by the Federal Aviation Administration. All 236 passengers were re-booked onto subsequent flights bound for Zurich.

Swiss Airlines disclosed that the unruly passenger, whose identity was not disclosed, “exhibited abusive behavior towards the crew.” During the altercation, one member of the cabin crew sustained minor injuries and was transported to a hospital for evaluation, according to an airline spokesperson.

Upon landing, the disruptive individual was apprehended by the New Jersey Port Authority and charged with assault and interference with transportation. The passenger was released pending a court appearance, as stated by the agency.

New Jersey Port Authority (Credits: Youtube)

In 2021, despite a surge in unruly passenger incidents during the COVID-19 pandemic, the FAA ceased its practice of issuing warning letters or counseling and began imposing substantial fines instead.

That year witnessed nearly 6,000 recorded incidents, an increase from the previous year’s 1,000. While the numbers have somewhat subsided, they remain double the pre-pandemic figures, as per FAA data.

In 2022, the FAA announced the permanence of its zero-tolerance stance. The FAA reserves the right to levy fines of up to $37,000 per policy violation—not per incident. Since implementing its zero-tolerance approach, the agency has imposed fines exceeding $8 million.

In a case from 2022, a woman incurred a record $82,000 fine for assaulting—spitting at, punching, and even biting—both crew members and passengers on an American Airlines flight from Texas to North Carolina.

Unruly behavior may also affect travelers’ eligibility for TSA PreCheck or lead to inclusion on an airline’s internal no-fly list, the FAA emphasized. The agency cautioned that “Unruly passenger incidents are referred to the FBI when warranted and can result in felony convictions.”

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