Six young football players from San Diego who were kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight to Chicago are facing federal charges for "disruptive" behaviour that caused the plane to be diverted to Texas, authorities said on 1 September. The US Attorney's Office of the Northern District of Texas announced the six were charged with interference with a flight crew and aiding and abetting.
The six men were identified as 19-year-old Saiman Hermez and Khalid Yohana; 20-year-old Jonathan Petras and Essa Solaqa; 21-year-old Ghazwan Shaba; and 23-year-old Wisam Shaker. Reuters reported that the men face up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000 each if convicted.
A federal complaint against the men claimed the group was sitting together on Southwest Airline flight 1522 when they were told to quieten down by the flight crew. They allegedly responded that "they could be as loud as they want."
The attorney's office added: "The defendants did not comply with anything they were asked to do; they were repeatedly standing up and becoming increasingly louder and attempted to incite other passengers to join their non-compliant behaviour."
The Dallas Morning News reported that one flight attendant said the six "were asked numerous times to put their seats back and tray tables up, which is required for takeoff of the aircraft, to which they verbally responded 'no.'" The men "complied" when threatened that the plane would return to the takeoff gate.
"Later, while the flight attendants were taking drink orders, the six passengers started talking loudly and using profanity," FBI special agent T Scott Hendricks said in an affidavit. After being denied their request for alcohol, the men allegedly "became aggressive by lunging forward" at the flight attendant, who "stated she felt threatened and that they were escalating their aggressive behaviour."
According to Reuters, the plane was diverted to Amarillo, Texas, where the men were arrested before the flight continued to Chicago. The six men are scheduled to appear in Amarillo federal court on 2 September.