A Fake Medical Emergency Diverted An American Airlines Flight

A false medical emergency forced an American Airlines flight to return to the ground on Friday without casualties. The pilot directed the Miami-bound flight to a Florida airport shortly after take-off and the crew safely deplaned all passengers. The situation was handled at the airport before the aircraft returned to the skies.

A Fake Medical Emergency Diverted An American Airlines Flight
An American Eagle Embraer ERJ-145 diverted to Florida for a medical emergency. Photo: Gwen K via Wikimedia Commons

A small bump in a smooth operation

Whilst American Airlines did everything it could to ensure traveling at Thanksgiving was smooth, there were some things that it couldn’t prepare for. On 29th November, the day after Thanksgiving, one of American Airlines’ regional flights was forced to make a detour in the interest of passenger safety. The American Eagle service had only recently taken off when it made the journey to Pensacola. The crew believed that a passenger was suffering a medical emergency.

The aircraft which was traveling to Miami made a stop in Pensacola and taxied to the gate. But, once there, the passenger refused to leave the aircraft which prompted the involvement of the police. As a result, the crew asked the other passengers to leave the aircraft whilst authorities boarded the plane.

American Airlines told Simple Flying:

“On Friday, American Eagle flight 3508 returned to Pensacola due to a passenger who requested medical assistance. The flight took off at 5:43 a.m. and landed back at Pensacola at 6:26 a.m. and taxied to the gate. All passengers deplaned normally at the gate through the main boarding door and onto the jet bridge.

The passenger was subsequently removed by law enforcement and medical personnel, and the flight took off again at 7:41 a.m.”

There has been no announcement about the specifics of the medical claim. We can only state that it was so serious that it prompted a swift landing from the pilot.

A Fake Medical Emergency Diverted An American Airlines Flight
However, there is speculation over the veracity of the incident. Photo: BriYYZ via Flickr

However, the Associated Press News suggests that the medical condition was not genuine. The site reports that the traveler faked a medical emergency in order to secure herself a larger seat. However, there has been no official comment from American Airlines on this suggestion.

Prompt turn around

Due to the nature of the claim, we don’t normally report on false medical emergencies as they rarely happen. Unfortunately, Friday’s situation might be an instance of a passenger taking advantage of the airline, if claims about wanting to change her seat are to be believed.

But the story is a testament to American Airlines’ well-oiled operations. Despite the time lost on gate taxi, the deplaning of passengers and the use of law enforcement and medical assistance American Airlines was able to work efficiently. Once the passenger was disembarked, the passengers returned and the aircraft was able to take off once again. All of that happened in just over one hour!

A Fake Medical Emergency Diverted An American Airlines Flight
The crew was quick to return the aircraft to the skies to manage Thanksgiving travelers. Photo: Great Circle Mapper

And American Airlines will be thankful for the responsiveness of its crew. The airline is in the midst of a busy Thanksgiving. It estimated that it would carry 8.6 million passengers between 22nd November and 3rd December. That’s one-third of all travelers migrating for Thanksgiving celebrations.

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