10/02/2012 04:54 EDT | Updated 10/02/2012 05:04 EDT

Flight Diversions: The Strangest Causes For Unexpected Landings


Flying, like any form of travel, has its share of inconveniences. Getting on the plane can sometimes feel like an uphill battle, what with the long line-ups and dealing with airport security, but arriving at your destination can be tough too — particularly if your plane doesn't land where it's supposed to.

Earlier in the week, two American Airlines flight were diverted after a row of seats in the cabin became loose, causing chairs — and the passengers sitting in them — to fall backwards onto the row behind them. The first of the two cases happened on Saturday during a flight from Boston to Miami, forcing the Boeing 757 jet to land in New York. On Monday, another Boeing 757 on its way to Miami had to return to John F. Kennedy International Airport after reports of loose seats, according to the Associated Press.

Despite the bizarre circumstances behind the forced landings, flight diversions are a fairly standard. Generally, diversions are a maneuver pilots and flight dispatch make in order to keep passengers safe for any number of reasons. Sometimes poor weather or visibility can make landing too dangerous and a safer alternative is to fly around until conditions clear or land at another airport. Other times, there might be a medical emergency or a safety hazard, like unattached seats, in which it's just better for everyone to be on the ground.

The strangest cases for flight diversions. Story continues below. Slideshow text appears below for mobile viewers

Photo gallery Crazy Causes For Flight Diversions See Gallery

Now, should travellers find themselves diverted, what happens next will depend on your carrier. Typically, airline companies will do what they can to get passengers back up in the air if other planes are available. In the event of a prolonged delay, most carriers will pay for an overnight hotel stay if flight delays last longer than four hours, but there may be a catch: the unscheduled landing must be outside of the hometown or away from a nearby airport. It's best to check out a carrier's policy beforehand to avoid being stranded in the middle of nowhere.

Ever experience a flight diversion? You can share your tale (or horror story) in the comment section below.


It's a good idea to wait until everyone's fully seated on the plane before getting intoxicated. Justin Neil Frank, a 35-year-old Calgary man was arrested after forcing an Air Canada flight from London to Calgary back in August. CBC reports Frank was drunk when he boarded the plane and kept drinking throughout — that is, when he wasn't walking down the aisles claiming to be an oil executive (he works as a rig service electrician). He was later tied down to his seat with duct tape and straps and arrested by the RCMP when the flight landed in Edmonton.

A Camera

In late August, a United Airlines flight en route to Geneva, Switzerland from Newark, New Jersey was forced to divert in Boston because of an... ordinary camera. Well, to be fair, police and airline crew thought the unclaimed camera could potentially be a bomb, which is why the 169 people on board had to be removed from the plane while bomb technicians disposed of the camera.

A Bad Joke

The most recent restriction to flying has been the limitation of liquids, gels and aerosols to containers no greater than 100 ml or 100 grams. Combine this with a prank call and you've got the fixings for a bomb scare. Last September, a passenger was victim of a bomb hoax when someone called police at Philadelphia International Airport informing them that a passenger was "carrying a dangerous substance", as reported by USA Today. The passenger's name matched with someone on board a flight bound to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. The plane was forced to return to Philadelphia where police arrested the passenger, only to release him after realizing he had done nothing wrong.

A Prayer Box

Back in January of 2010, a US Airways flight leaving New York and heading to Louisville, Kentucky had to divert to Philadelphia due to a misunderstanding over a teenager's prayer box. The 17-year-old Jewish boy was flying with his sister when he started using his tefillin, a set of small black boxes containing biblical passages that are attached to leather straps, attaching one box to his head and the other to his arm, according to Fox News. Crew members of the flight questioned the boy but weren't able to get a "clear response" and asked the plane to turn back to Philadelphia for a more thorough investigation.

A Misunderstanding

What can only be interpreted as a big misunderstanding is also the reason why a partially blind 86-year-old-man caused a Spirit Airlines flight from California to Florida to be diverted to Houston back in July. The man, who only spoke French, became unruly and started swinging at passengers because he was "scared," reports

Medical Help From Obama

Back in May, a French woman managed to divert a US Airways flight from Paris to North Carolina after claiming she had been surgically implanted with a device. Flight 787 landed in Bangor International Airport unexpectedly after Lucie Zeeko Marigot, 41, said she had something inside of her that was "out of control" and was travelling to the U.S. to seek medical help from President Barack Obama and the American people. Marigot was never charged by U.S. authorities but was sent back to France, according to U.S. Attorney, Thomas Delahanty II.

Flight Attendant Squabble

What was supposed to be a normal flight from North Carolina to Chicago resulted in a diversion after a fight broke out between two flight attendants on board a United Airlines plane. Raleigh-Durham International Airport received an early morning call from the pilot of Flight 1214, saying that there was an assault on board, according to, when it was actually a verbal argument between two stewards. When the plane returned to North Carolina, the attendants were removed and the plane was restaffed.