Florida woman fakes medical issue on plane to get bigger seat, police say

The woman claimed to have "breathing issues" during the flight, according to Pensacola Police Department, and the plane returned to the airport.
Image; An American Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft approaches Miami International Airport in Florida on March 12, 2019.
An American Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft approaches Miami International Airport in Florida on March 12, 2019.Scott McIntyre / Bloomberg via Getty Images

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By Sarah Jackson

A Florida woman is in custody after faking a medical issue during a flight, which ultimately forced the plane to be diverted, in order to get a bigger seat.

The woman, who has not been identified, falsely claimed to have a medical issue during a Friday morning American Airlines flight from Pensacola to Miami in an attempt to get a bigger seat.

The pilot declared an emergency and turned the plane back to Pensacola after the woman reported having trouble breathing, Pensacola Police Department public information officer Mike Wood told NBC News. Flight crews called authorities to Pensacola International Airport, where the woman admitted she had made up the medical issue in order to get a bigger seat on the plane.

The woman initially refused to deplane, prompting a complete evacuation of the aircraft, but authorities and the pilot were eventually able to convince her to exit the plane.

The woman was taken into protective custody under the state's Baker Act, which allows authorities to detain individuals believed to pose a threat to themselves or others.

"American Eagle 3508 returned to Pensacola due to a passenger who requested medical assistance," American Airlines said in a statement to NBC News on Friday. "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."

Criminal charges have not been filed yet against the woman, but she may still be charged, Wood said. No one was injured.