Coronavirus fears divert United flight over passenger sneezing

Heightened coronavirus fears may have contributed to the passenger's outburst

A commercial flight from Colorado ski country to Newark, New Jersey, made an unscheduled stop in Denver after several passengers became disruptive because they were seated next to someone who they thought was sick, officials said.

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Sunday's diversion of the United Airlines flight to Newark International Airport illustrates growing concerns over the coronavirus outbreak that has infected more than 500 people in the U.S. and 100,000 people worldwide.

A small group of passengers became disruptive on Flight 1562 after they were seated next to someone who was sneezing and coughing, United Airlines officials told Denver media.

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The passengers failed to follow crew members' instructions, forcing the diversion to Denver, where the plane was met by police and the disruptive passengers removed, KUSA-TV reported.

Denver police officials said three people were upset about a sick person on the plane.

A United Airlines plane being serviced on the tarmac of Narita Airport. After its merger with Continental in 2010, United has become the world's largest airline.

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United Airlines officials told KCNC-TV that the passenger they thought was sick was actually suffering from allergies. The person was screened on the plane, did not have a fever and was allowed to continue on the flight.

Airline officials did not immediately return a call and an email on Monday for additional details. The flight originated at Eagle County Airport.

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KCNC-TV reported the FBI is investigating, but it is not clear whether any charges will be filed.