Alaska News

Passenger says naked man on diverted Alaska Airlines flight acted ‘off’ before plane left the ground

An Alaska Airlines flight bound for Seattle early Wednesday returned to Anchorage after an unruly passenger locked himself in the bathroom, stripped off his clothes, and started repeatedly flushing the toilet.

The plane, which carried 178 passengers, diverted back to Anchorage about 40 minutes into the flight, Alaska Airlines said. An airline spokesman said the man wasn't following instructions from flight attendants.

Some on the flight said the man was acting strangely before the plane was even boarded.

Shariee Hans, a 61-year-old Anchorage resident, said she noticed there was "something definitely off" about the man and airline employees should have noticed, too.

Hans said the man looked like he was "on drugs" as passengers waited at the gate before the 1:25 a.m. departure.

"He was very fidgety. He was doing a lot of walking. He would just kind of talk to himself," she said. "He walked up to the counter, said something to the counter woman, and just walked away."

The man — Hans described him as white and in his mid-20s, about 6 feet tall — got on the plane whistling and singing along with loud music in his headphones, she said. An attendant had to ask him to turn it down. He sat down in the row behind Hans.

The man got up to use the bathroom, Hans said, and she talked with his male seatmates about how he seemed to be "on something."

The flight crew knocked on the bathroom door after the man had been in the restroom for some time, said Anchorage Airport Police and Fire Chief Jesse Davis.

"When there was no response, they opened it and observed the subject naked and flushing the toilet constantly," Davis said. "That's when it appears they were concerned enough to turn around and come back."

The plane returned to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport at 2:47 a.m. and was met by airport police and agents with the FBI.

Police officers handcuffed the man and escorted him off the plane, Davis said. He was cooperative.

Officers did not find any drugs during a search of the passenger's area, he said.

Police took the man to a local hospital for mental evaluation, according to Staci Feger-Pellessier, an Anchorage-based spokeswoman for the FBI.

Flight 146 didn't take off for Seattle until 6:37 a.m. because of federal guidelines requiring a crew change, according to Alaska Airlines spokesman Tim Thompson.

Asked how the airline makes sure passengers are safe to board, he said in an email that nothing "is more important than the safety of our employees and passengers. Our employees are empowered to 'do the right thing,' which includes looking out for guests who may not be fit to fly."

It's unclear whether the passenger will face any criminal charges.

"No final determination has been made yet whether or not charges will be brought," Chloe Martin, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Anchorage, wrote in an email Thursday.

Hans, who was booked on a day flight but got bumped to the early Wednesday red-eye, finally got to her sister's place in Albuquerque at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Alaska Airlines emailed her Thursday with a $150 voucher off her next ticket, she said, laughing a little. "It's like, give me 40,000 miles."

An international United Airlines flight diverted to Anchorage last month after a disruptive passenger began smearing feces in the bathroom.