Delta Air Lines Passenger Storms Cockpit to “End Terrorism”

A Delta Air Lines flight from Puerto Rico to New York was forced to turn back yesterday after a disturbed passenger attempted to enter the cockpit.

DL579 departed San Juan at 7.00am for the four hour flight up to JFK.  Not long after take off a 30 year man, identified as Carlos Ramírez Rodríguez, tried to enter the cockpit of the Boeing 737-900. According to a report in FlyerTalk, he was shouting “I am God! Tomorrow San Juan is going to disappear, I came to save the world, and I’m going to end terrorism.” 

delta passenger storms cockpit
A Delta flight to JFK returned to San Juan yesterday after a passenger attempted to storm the cockpit. Photo: Tomas Del Coro via Flickr

Mr Ramírez was restrained by passengers and crew. The plane returned to San Juan. After Mr  Ramírez was arrested and removed, the plane took off for JFK again, landing safely at 1.10pm.

The flight was carrying six crew and more than 160 passengers. 

What other passengers are saying

The New York Post spoke to a passenger after the flight landed in New York. According to Moraima Garcia Rohena, Mr Ramírez left his seat while the plane was still climbing and the seatbelt signs were on. Flight crew attempted to stop him from moving up the aisle.

Mr Ramírez continued moving up the aisle. Crew told him, “You need to back off.” He attempted to open the cockpit door, banging on it, but was unsuccessful. He was then held down by passengers before been restrained.

delta passenger storms cockpit
Cockpit doors are always locked and secure once the plane pushes back. Photo: Bill Abbott via Flickr

Another passenger said Mr Ramírez was showing clear signs of agitation after boarding and prior to take off. Jacob Colon told the New York Post, “He gets on the plane. He starts talking about Jesus this, Jesus that, the world was going to end and the plane was going to crash.”

Passengers now happy to intervene

While the incidents like this can be unnerving, passengers and crew responding quickly and efficaciously to real or perceived in-flight safety threats have become a modern day trend, which can be traced back to the 9/11 UA93 flight.

Just one month ago, on another Delta flight flying from Indianapolis to Paris, a man began behaving erratically and struck a Flight Attendant across the throat. The gentleman was restrained and the plane diverted to Detroit.

Sometimes it’s not about violent passengers, but ignorant passengers behaving poorly towards other people on-board. Recently, annoyed Spirit Airlines passengers were happy to tip off authorities about a disruptive passenger drinking his own alcohol on a flight after he’d set off the toilet smoke alarms while vaping.

An Alaska Airlines flight from San Francisco to Philadelphia was forced to divert earlier this year after a passenger refused to stop smoking on-board.

delta passenger storms cockpit
Airlines are increasingly happy to return to the gate or divert to deal with bad on-board behaviour. Photo: LPDAL via Flickr

Earlier this year, on a flight between Toronto and Vancouver, passengers and crew stepped in when a middle aged man began behaving inappropriately towards a teenage girl seated next to him.

Final thoughts

Simple Flying approached Delta Air Lines for comment about this latest incident. A Delta spokesperson said :

“Delta applauds the quick action and professionalism of the crew of Delta flight 579 … The flight attendant crew swiftly restrained the individual with help from some customers, and law enforcement in San Juan took him into custody for further evaluation. The flight continued to New York after a brief delay.”

It’s interesting (in a good way) that tolerance for bad behaviour on-board a flight has decreased markedly in the last couple of decades. Vigilant crew and switched on passengers are prepared to help make flying safer for everybody.

Yesterday’s Delta flight landed safely with no injuries. The person worse off is a clearly disturbed Mr Ramírez who is now subject to the tender mercies of law enforcement. He is unlikely to be welcome back on Delta anytime soon.