Transatlantic AA Flight To London Returns To Miami Over Masks

An American Airlines flight from Miami to London turned back an hour after departure due to a passenger refusing to wear a mask. With 129 passengers and 14 crew onboard, the transatlantic flight turned around approximately 500 miles into the 4,400-mile journey. The flight was canceled as a result of the incident.

A passenger on the flight refused to comply with the federal mask mandate. Photo: Getty Images

American Airlines flight turns back due to mask issue

Flight AAL38 from Miami (MIA) to London (LHR) was around one hour into its journey before it abruptly returned to Miami International Airport. The flight was cut short due to a passenger onboard refusing to abide by the federal mask mandate.

Transatlantic AA Flight To London Returns To Miami Over Masks
Flight AAL38 aborted its journey one hour after takeoff. Flight data:

According to a statement from American Airlines,

“American Airlines flight 38 with service from Miami (MIA) to London (LHR) returned to MIA due to a disruptive customer refusing to comply with the federal mask requirement.”

The flight took off at 19:59 EST, around 20 minutes after its scheduled time. Data from shows the aircraft turning back at around 21:00 before landing in Miami at 22:42. The flight was canceled and passengers were forced to make alternative arrangements.

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Unclear if charges have been filed

Law enforcement was notified of the incident while the plane was in the air. Local police met the aircraft at Gate D14 when it returned to Miami International Airport. The Miami-Dade Police Department and Miami International Airport have yet to comment on the incident, while it is unclear whether anyone has been officially charged.

One passenger told CBS,

“They wouldn’t really say anything and I don’t think they told the flight attendants anything, because all they would say is there was an extreme incident and they had to turn around.”

Transatlantic AA Flight To London Returns To Miami Over Masks
The flight was canceled after returning to Miami International Airport. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

The aircraft involved was a Boeing 777-300ER (registration: N724AN) with 129 passengers onboard. All passengers were forced to get off the plane soon after it had landed.

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American Airlines added,

“The flight landed at MIA where local law enforcement met the aircraft. We thank our crew for their professionalism and apologize to our customers for the inconvenience.”

Is the FAA crackdown working?

Since President Biden announced the federal mask mandate in January 2021, there have been a host of incidents involving unruly and abusive passengers. In 2021, the FAA investigated over 1,000 passengers involved in onboard incidents.

This accounted for just 18% of reported passenger incidents, which stood at 5,981 for the year. Of these incidents, over 70% (4,290) were mask-related. The FAA adopted a stricter stance on offenders, including maximum prison sentences of 20 years and up to $35,000 in fines.

Passenger Getty
The US government is reportedly not considering removing the mask mandate any time soon. Photo: Getty Images

Since January 1st, the FAA has received 151 reports of unruly passengers, 92 of which were related to masks. This would appear to be below 2021’s weekly average, although it’s still too early to tell if the FAA’s stricter approach is having its desired effect.

One recent incident onboard a Delta flight saw a female passenger arrested by the FBI at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. After a verbal dispute on the subject of masks, the woman punched and spat on a fellow passenger.

Have you experienced any mask-related incidents onboard flights recently? Do you think the FAA’s stricter approach is working? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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