British plane passenger arrested in Utah sentenced to remain in custody

A Virgin Atlantic flight bound for Los Angeles was forced to divert to Salt Lake City International Airport on Tuesday due to an unruly passenger, police said. (Rick Bowmer, Associated Press)

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SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge has ordered a U.K. man to remain in Utah custody after he was arrested and charged with a fight with passengers and crew aboard a flight who was forced to make an unscheduled stopover in Salt Lake City due to the man’s unruly behavior.

William Stephen Hayes, 39, was arrested at Salt Lake City International Airport on Tuesday on a flight from London’s Heathrow Airport to Los Angeles, Salt Lake City police said.

A federal complaint was filed Wednesday against Hayes, charged with interfering with a flight crew and assaulting an aircraft.

Local airport officials were notified around 4:30 p.m. that Virgin Atlantic Flight 141 was being rerouted to Salt Lake City “due to an unruly passenger”.

“Based on preliminary information, Hayes became irritated mid-flight and after several attempts by the flight crew to maintain order, he became violent. The flight crew and passengers immediately intervened and restrained Hayes. While being restrained, Hayes allegedly assaulted the flight crew and at least one other passenger, resulting in minor injuries. Hayes also kicked the seats and windows of the aircraft” , police said in a statement.

Federal court documents further state that, according to witnesses, “Throughout the flight, Hayes was loud, disruptive, threatening and abusive to fellow passengers and crew members. Flight attendants opened a kit restraint as a precaution. At one point during the flight, Hayes assaulted a male passenger seated in front of him, grabbing the passenger’s shirt, attempting to punch him and grab his throat. This action left visible marks on his neck of the assaulted passenger. Hayes also spat at and attempted to bite the passenger.

Two passengers and flight crew then restrained Hayes, who was handcuffed.

“While restrained, Hayes continued to fight and be violent, and attempted to kick the windows of the plane,” according to court documents.

After landing, Hayes, who was “actively restrained by passengers and flight attendants,” according to police, was arrested by Salt Lake Police and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers. .

The plane was inspected for possible damage before the flight continued to Los Angeles, arriving around four hours later than originally scheduled.

Hayes was taken to a Salt Lake County jail where he was taken into federal custody. He made a first appearance in federal court Wednesday afternoon after the federal complaint was filed. A judge ordered him to remain in custody until his next hearing in a week.

“The safety and well-being of our customers and crew is always our top priority, and we do not tolerate any behavior that compromises this,” Virgin Atlantic said in a prepared statement. “We always want our customers to have the best experience when they fly with us, and our cabin crew are highly trained to deal with anyone who may impact that experience for others.”

Unruly behavior has been rising in the sky, with last year being the worst on record for airline passenger behavior in the United States, according to data from the Federal Aviation Administration.

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Pat Reavy is a longtime police and court reporter. He joined the team in 2021 after many years reporting for the Deseret News

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