Unruly passenger forces United flight's return to Houston

Courtney Fischer Image
Monday, July 24, 2017

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Passengers on United Airlines flight 898 from Houston to New Orleans had their trip delayed after a disruptive person forced the plane to turn around.

Julian Markowitz, who was on that plane, told Eyewitness News a woman seated in the back row made a run for the cockpit about 25 minutes into the 45 minute flight. He, along with four other passengers, tackled her.

Markowitz said the disruption started with the woman yelling and hitting the wall of the plane.

"I hear (her) screaming, 'We are all protected and loved! We are all protected and loved! This plane is going to land beautifully and kindly!'" Markowitz said.

Markowitz sat about five rows in front of her.

"In an instant, she stands up, bolts to the aisle and started springing towards the cockpit," Markowitz said. "As soon as she started running, I stand up and ask the flight attendant, 'Can I help you with this? Do you need help?' She said go for it, so I gently pushed the flight attendant out of the way and started sprinting after the woman myself."

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Markowitz said four other men, including a pilot seated as a passenger, did the same thing.

"It took five men to hold her down. It wasn't easy. She was in a total psychotic state. She was very aggressive," he said.

According to Markowitz, after they had the woman on the plane floor, flight attendants gave them zip-tie handcuffs. They restrained the woman's wrists and ankles and kept her down the rest of the flight.

The airline told Eyewitness News the flight returned to Bush Intercontinental Airport at 1:16 Sunday morning, where law enforcement met the plane as it arrived.

The disruptive person was taken off the flight, and the crew and passengers were able to continue on to their destination.

The airline thanked their customers for their patience, and the crew for their professional actions.

Markowitz said there were about 100 passengers on board who stayed calm throughout the chaos.

"I sort of smiled to give everyone the sense that everyone is fine, the situation was under control," he said. "She was not of sound mind, but anyone who would have more malicious intent would have been subdued in a similar fashion. That reflects the vigilance that American travelers have in this era."

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