An angry man allegedly launched into a racist and homophobic rant after being seated between two other passengers of Indian or Pakistani descent on a San Francisco-bound flight out of Sydney on New Year's Day, leading to a confrontation with a flight attendant and the plane being diverted to Auckland and grounded there overnight. The man's anger, while not especially loud, was captured on cellphone video, though the racist commentary was not. He also apparently referred to the flight crew as "faggots and fatasses" and called some passengers "faggots" who were taking video of his removal from the plane, according to the New Zealand Herald.
The trouble began about 40 minutes into United Airlines flight 870, according to an account given to the paper, when the man became incensed that the two passengers on either side of him began talking over him. According to one passenger seated a few rows away, "The rant progressed from cursing Indians to Asians to Muslims to non-whites in general and calling flight crew faggots and fatasses. He was subdued after the pilot announced the diversion to Auckland."
In the video above you can hear the man, who might have a New York accent, saying, "If you guys treat people right on these things, you see two last names the same don't put someone else in the middle of them." He insists he's not yelling, and threatens, "You want to hear me fucking yell?" Responding to the flight attendant after she threatens to have the pilot turn the plane around, he says, "Do you know how cool it would be to have the airplane turned around because of me? You are going to do that? You do that. I'm being so impolite aren't I? Fatass."
Shortly thereafter, the plane landed in Auckland, and a video posted to Facebook by Neil Kay shows the man being quietly escorted off the plane by police.
Kay also posted the photos below showing the "wonderful new friends" he says he made after all the passengers and crew were forced to spend the night in Auckland before taking off again for SFO. Due to the length of the flight and the delay, the NZ Herald reports that the crew had to deplane to rest before returning to work.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that all 252 passengers on the plane were put up overnight in hotels in Auckland by United, and the new flight was scheduled to land at SFO at 9:30 a.m. this morning, January 2.
United Airlines spokesperson Erin Benson said the man, a 42-year-old American, was arrested in Auckland and referred to immigration. "We apologized to our customers for the inconvenience," she said.
Update: And there's more footage... and apparently no charges are being filed.