United Airlines Pilot Arrested for Refusing to Fly to Israel

June 26, 2014  

A pilot who refused to fly his scheduled United Airlines flight to Israel was arrested – with 300 passengers stuck on the plane for hours while airline officials scrambled to find another pilot.

The United Airlines flight from Newark to Tel Aviv was set to leave early in the week. Usually a non-stop flight, passengers expected to get to their destinations after about 12 hours, but instead were in transit for about 30. Airline personnel refused to let them disembark for hours, passengers said, “making us feel like hostages, without food or water,” according to one witness.

Even before the incident with the pilot, there were many problems with the flight, passengers reported, including broken lavatories, poor air circulation, and engine issues. The flight, which had actually been set to leave the day before, was canceled because of the poor condition of the plane, and passengers were either sent home or given hotel rooms for the night.

But the “nightmare,” as one passenger described it, continued. “We were waiting for a long time, and finally the staff came out and told us that the pilot had refused to turn the engines on because he did not want to fly to Tel Aviv.” It wasn’t clear if his motivation was political or financial, passengers said. Security personnel forcibly removed the pilot from the cockpit, and it was several hours before the airline could find a replacement pilot.

The flight’s delays caused a chain reaction in the takeoff schedule at Newark, causing numerous delays throughout the day.  

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