Hawaiian Airlines Diversion Costs A Disruptive Passenger $172,000

A disruptive passenger aboard a Hawaiian Airlines flight from Honolulu to Seoul, South Korea has been ordered to pay $172,000 after the plane was forced to return to Hawaii midway through the flight. This is according to reporting in the New York Post.

Passenger to pay Hawaiian Airlines
Drunk passenger ordered to pay Hawaiian Airlines $172,000. Photo :Hawaiian Airlines

48-year-old Korean National Kyong Chol Kim was sentenced in Federal Court this Wednesday to six months in jail. They were also ordered to pay Hawaiian Airlines restitution in the amount of $172,000.

The incident happened back in February aboard Hawaiian Airlines flight HA 459. The flight was carrying 263 passengers between Hawaii’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport and Incheon International Airport in South Korea.

Two days earlier, Kim had been refused entry into the United States after arriving in Honolulu without the proper documentation. Kim was then transferred to a Federal Detention Center where he was held until the next available flight back to South Korea.

Passenger drank an entire bottle of Ballantine’s whisky

The Honolulu Star Advertiser newspaper reports that customs agents escorted Kim to the Hawaiian Airlines flight and stayed with him until the plane was ready to depart. A document presented in court claims that a worker from duty-free boarded the plane and handed the Korean a package that contained a bottle of Ballantine’s whisky.

Hawaiian Airlines in Vegas
Hawaiian Airlines passenger drank an entire bottle of Ballantine’s whisky.Photo:Mark Finlay/Flickr

Passengers on board the plane with Kim claim they saw him drink the entire bottle of whisky before flight attendants began their first drinks service. This was around 45 minutes into the flight.

According to court documents seen by the Star, Kim started to bother a young boy sat next to him. Despite the boy’s mother asking him to stop, he continued to touch the boy on the shoulder.

Once a female flight attendant intervened, Kim started yelling at her in Korean saying that he was “going to get” her. As he lunged towards the flight attendant, she became scared and started moving towards the front of the plane.

Drunk passenger had to be restrained in his seat

Kim continued his verbal assault in both English and Korean, prompting American military personnel who were aboard the flight to restrain him. Passengers and crew held Kim down until airline employees could flex cuff him and secure him in his seat.

Hawaiian Airlines
American military personnel had to hold the drunk passenger down. Photo: Hawaiian Airlines.

The pilot of the Airbus A330 was notified of the incident and said that he “observed a very erratic and belligerent man” trying to break free of his restraints. Once the crew told the captain that there was no way of calming Kim down, the decision was made to turn the plane around and head back to Honolulu.

When the plane arrived back at the gate, Customs Agents, Border Protection Agents, and the FBI were waiting to arrest Kim and take him to a Federal Detention Center.

Bigger fines and mandatory jail time

Incidents like this and the resulting fines and jail time are becoming a regular occurence. It seems like hardly a week goes by without some kind of air-rage incident happening. While we often hear the story of what happened, we hardly ever hear about fines and jail time.

Hawaiian Airlines A330
Tougher penalties are needed when a plane is forced to divert due to disruptive passengers. Photo: Hawaiian Airlines.

Personally, I applaud the judge in Hawaii for this decision and would like to see judges in other parts of the world take a harder stance against drunks on planes. Large fines and mandatory jail time should be standard practice until people realize that behaving badly while flying comes at a price.

What do you think – am I being too harsh, or are you like me and want to see people punished for unacceptable and dangerous behavior?

Simple Flying contacted Hawaiian Airlines to ask if they had any comments regarding the court’s ruling.

They replied saying: “Thank you for reaching out. We don’t have anything to add to the outcome of the legal proceeding”.


Hawaiian Airlines Media Relations