The man who made many headlines and local news stories Monday for causing 252 passengers to get stuck for 24 hours in Auckland, New Zealand all because he allegedly launched into a racist and homophobic rant on a New Year's Day flight from Sydney to SFO and refused to back down when confronted by flight attendants will not be facing charges, apparently. That's at least according to the New Zealand Herald, which reports he's been detained in Auckland since Sunday evening until he can be put on a plane back to the US. The as-yet unidentified 42-year-old American nonetheless caused all the passengers on the plane to be delayed getting home, or to their destinations, by more than a day.
And now we have new cellphone footage, shown above, of the man speaking into his own phone on the ground in Auckland saying, "Tell my dad to get his law firm ready because United Airlines just diverted the fucking plane because I complained to some fat fuck who got in my fucking face." Clearly he's a lot of fun at parties.
The incident began over the Pacific, about 40 minutes into the flight according to one account, when the man became incensed that he was seated between two people of Indian or Pakistani descent who appeared to know each other, and were talking over him. Rather than attempt to resolve the issue with his seatmates, the man apparently went to loudly complain to flight attendants, including the use of racist language and subsequently referred to flight attendants as "faggots" and "fatasses."
NBC Bay Area spoke to the couple whose cellphone footage was first circulated Monday, Neil Kay and his wife Anjou Ahlborn Kay, who describe the situation as unfolding over many hours other passengers had described the unruly man as grabbing beverages from the service cart as it passed, and continuing to make loud remarks. (An SFist commenter on board the flight says, "After he was given an aisle seat, he continued to get aggressive with flight attendants, and started forcefully raiding the bar cart once they refused him a beer.")
"Once the flight attendant came over, he turned to using gay slurs toward flight attendants," Anjou Kay tells the station. "Every 15 minutes [there was] an incident for six hours. Everyone was concerned what's the next one gonna be. ... I felt tense; I had tears in my eyes because it was such a tense situation for so long."
The flight was near Tonga, about four and a half hours in, when the pilot decided to divert the plane to Auckland, well over an hour south. The Daily Mail reports that the plane was refused landing in American Samoa or Fiji.
Another passenger, Peter Barrett, suggests that the man seemed mentally off somehow. He tells the NZ Herald, "He seemed agitated, scribbling in a dog-eared copy of Catcher in the Rye. At one point he went to the bathroom for 20 minutes which raised more than a few eyebrows." Barrett add, in polite form that he doesn't believe the man was drunk. "The behavior seemed more like a pharmacological excess or deficit than simple alcohol," he told the paper.
The Kays praised the United Airlines crew for keeping everything as "calm and cool" as they could throughout the incident. It's estimated that the diversion cost the airline about $150,000.