Florida Woman Forces American Airlines Plane Diversion After Faking Medical Issue During Flight

A Florida woman was taken into custody after she forced an early morning American Airlines flight to divert back to the airport shortly after takeoff by faking a medical condition in a bid to secure a bigger seat, authorities said.

The flight had taken off from Pensacola International Airport in Florida for Miami at 5.43 a.m. on Friday, but it landed back at the airport less than 45 minutes later after a female passenger claimed to have a medical issue, an airline spokesman confirmed to Newsweek.

The pilot declared an emergency and turned the flight back around after the woman, who has not been named, said she was having trouble breathing, Pensacola Police spokesperson Mike Wood told Newsweek.

Officers from the department were called to Pensacola International Airport after the flight landed back there at around 6.30 a.m. and the woman said she had made up the medical issue in order to get a bigger seat on that plane or another flight. Wood told Newsweek the woman is "larger" and was not comfortable in the seat she had been assigned.

The Pensacola News Journal reported that the entire plane had to be evacuated after the woman refused to get off the flight. But police officers and the pilot were eventually able to convince the woman to disembark.

The woman was taken into custody under Florida's Baker Act, which permits authorities to detain a person who they believe could pose an immediate threat to themselves or others, Wood added to Newsweek.

That decision was "based on something she said in front of officers," he said. Wood added that the woman is being held at a mental health facility and will undergo a mental health evaluation.

Wood said that no charges have yet been filed against the woman, but she may still be charged in connection to the incident.

In a statement to Newsweek, an American Airlines spokesperson said: "On Friday, November 29, American Eagle flight 3508 returned to Pensacola due to a passenger who requested medical assistance. The flight took off at 5.43 a.m. and landed back at Pensacola at 6.26 a.m. and taxied to the gate.

"All passengers deplaned normally at the gate through the main boarding door and onto the jet bridge. The passenger was subsequently removed by law enforcement and medical personnel, and the flight took off again at 7.41 a.m."

Update: This article has been updated with a statement from American Airlines and additional information from the Pensacola Police Department.

Stock photo. A Florida woman forced an American Airlines flight to return to the airport shortly after takeoff after she faked a medical issue in order to get a bigger seat, authorities said. Reuters/Mike Blake