NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A passenger’s dire need to use the bathroom led to a disruptive and diverted flight from JFK.
The incident sparked a debate over whether or not all passengers should be allowed to use bathrooms located in first class.
The Alaskan Airlines passenger was clearly unhinged as he launched into a verbal attack aboard Flight 411.
In a video, he’s heard saying, “They’d rather let the bathroom be empty up there and let eight people wait in line.”
But the cause for his outburst is an urge many travelers find sympathetic, CBS2’s Christina Fan reports.
“If a guy has to go, why not? Why not? If a guy has to go to the bathroom, what are you going to do? Let him go on the seat?” one traveler said.
“It’s an emergency and you should be allowed to. Either way, you know, you paid for a flight ticket,” New Jersey resident Rocio Castillo said.
The meltdown began when the man was denied access to use a bathroom in first class while all the ones in coach were occupied.
Aviation experts say it’s usually at a flight attendant’s discretion whether or not to let people use lavatories outside their ticketed cabin.
In this case, they say the decision was tricky because the first-class bathroom was located right next to the cockpit.
“Anybody moving toward that lavatory is automatically suspect. Now, if you’re already seated in first class, they know who you are, but if you’re coming from the economy section, they’re going to look at you and they’re going to say, ‘Why aren’t you using the restrooms in the back?'” said Doug Kidd, executive director of the National Association of Airline Passengers.
A recent study suggests inequality between first-class and economy lead to more cases of air rage.
“I’ve seen it. The regular flights, everybody is treated the same, but then when you have class, it’s a different treatment,” passenger Andrene Welch said.
But experts say the real problem is airlines trying to squeeze in more passengers and profit with more seats and fewer bathrooms.
“If you’re flying economy, you don’t expect any luxuries, but you do expect a necessity,” Kidd said.
Late reaction from the Department of Justice says the first-class bathroom was occupied by a crew member at that moment and the situation grew out of control before it could be resolved.
The passenger was arrested and charged in federal court with interfering with a flight attendant.