WATCH: A disruptive passenger delayed a flight by eight hours.
A disruptive passenger on a United Airlines flight from Shanghai to New Jersey was asked to get off the plane in a politically tinged altercation, resulting in an unscheduled stop in San Francisco and an arrival delayed by eight hours.
Videos provided to Global News and posted on social media showed an unidentified man wearing a red “Make America Great Again” cap heatedly insisting that he was entitled to a seat and arguing with fellow passengers, at one point calling one a “moron” who didn’t speak English.
The caps were popular during President Donald Trump’s campaign.
Sunday’s incident ended with local airport authorities escorting the man off the plane while angry passengers chanted “lock him up.” The chants likely also referred to the bitter U.S. election, when Trump frequently led chants of “lock her up” about his rival, Hillary Clinton, who was accused of mishandling emails as secretary of state.
Passenger Clark Gredona, who was flying home from vacation, wrote on Facebookthat the man felt entitled to several seats next to him because he could not get an upgrade. He berated a female passenger, calling her “Hillary” and a “lesbian,” Gredona wrote.
Elizabeth Aulenbach, a passenger who was sitting three rows ahead of the disruptive man, told The Associated Press that the incident didn’t start as a political dispute but was exacerbated by the “Democratic-Republican fire that rages.”
“He just wanted United to do something, anything, that would allow him to sue them — he even said so more than once,” said Aulenbach, who was flying home to Pennsylvania.
She added that United crew behaved professionally.
The airline has been in the spotlight in recent weeks after footage surfaced of a passenger being violently dragged off an overbooked flight from Chicago to Louisville, prompting widespread condemnation and an undisclosed legal settlement.
Gredona said he believed that although police were brought onto the plane, the man was not forced off due to that spotlight on the airline.
“The police were probably unwilling to create an international incident on an American plane,” he told Global News.
United spokesman Jonathan Guerin said the disruptive passenger in Shanghai “refused to comply with crew member instructions.”
Gredona said everyone was asked to deplane after it became clear that the man did not want to move.
“They never explicitly told us the reason why we had to deplane, but we speculated that they didn’t want the resolution to be handled or filmed with other passengers around,” he said. “It was pretty apparent that the flight was not going to take off with him on board. Either way it was a way of speeding up the resolution of the incident.”
He said after they deplaned, everyone waited “about an hour or two” before the man left the aircraft, which Guerin said he did on his own accord.
The flight departed Shanghai five hours after its scheduled takeoff and made an unscheduled stop in San Francisco to change crew. It arrived in Newark at 2:25 a.m. Monday, eight hours after its scheduled landing time.
“We’re grateful for the patience shown by our customers who endured the disruptive behavior of this passenger, as well as the exceptional poise and professionalism of our flight crew,” Guerin said.
Gredona said the delayed passengers were offered 10,000 frequent flyer points or a US$200 voucher towards a United flight.
– with files from Gerry Shih, The Associated Press