An Irish man on a Delta Air Lines flight from Dublin to New York is accused of refusing to wear a face mask, throwing an empty can that hit another passenger and pulling down his pants and exposing his buttocks to a flight attendant and others nearby.
A criminal complaint filed in the Eastern District of New York said 29-year-old Shane McInerney, a resident of Galway, "created ... numerous disturbances" on the Jan. 7 flight traveling to John F. Kennedy International Airport.
"During the approximately eight-hour flight, the defendant repeatedly refused to wear a face mask despite being asked dozens of times by flight crew personnel," the FBI affidavit said.
The complaint states that McInerney kicked the back of the passenger seat in front of him, walked into the Delta One-class section and complained about his food to a flight attendant, disobeyed the orders of flight attendants as the plane was making its final descent and put his cap on the captain's head, said not to touch him and put his fist near the captain's face.
According to the complaint, "at least one passenger found the defendant’s conduct to be scary" and flight crew members had considered diverting the airplane to another airport to remove McInerney before the completion of the trip.
Authorities took him into custody upon landing.
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McInerney has been charged with interfering with flight crew: a felony that carries a maximum prison term of 20 years.
Bloomberg said Friday that U.S. Magistrate Judge James Cho agreed to put the case on hold until Mar. 15 because plea discussions are ongoing.
"Law enforcement officials met the arrival of Delta flight 45 on Friday, Jan. 7 from Dublin to New York-JFK to respond to flight crew reports of an unruly customer," a Delta spokesperson said in a statement emailed to Fox Business on Saturday. "Delta has zero tolerance for unruly behavior at our airports and aboard our aircraft as nothing is more important that the safety of our people and our customers."
Fox 5 New York said McInerney – who appeared in court in Brooklyn last week and was released on bond – was en route to take a job teaching soccer at a sports academy in Daytona, Florida.
McInerney's attorney, Benjamin Yaster, told The Associated Press that he had no comment on the matter.
Accounts of unruly passenger behavior have risen sharply amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, with airlines reporting that there were more than 5,000 episodes last year.
More than 3,600 cases involved people allegedly refusing to wear required face masks.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.