LONDON, U.K.–A spokesperson for Virgin Atlantic Airlines, Ltd. confirmed this morning that a white man who was acting suspiciously during transatlantic Flight 10 from John F. Kennedy Airport to London Heathrow Airport was not escorted off the Airbus 330 red-eye.
Eyewitnesses report that the man, whose identity was not disclosed, began acting erratically soon after he boarded the aircraft. “He started slapping his hands on his thighs really fast and loudly while he was listening to music from the in-flight entertainment system before the plane took off,” said Tamara Atkins, a native New Yorker who was traveling to London on business. “When I saw that I thought, maybe I should say something about it to one of the crew.” When questioned further, Ms. Atkins said that she watched The Sessions on her seat-back TV and slept instead, but she was nervous the whole time.
“It was really bizarre,” confirmed a college student who said she sat across the aisle two rows behind the man. She also reported that exchanging quizzical glances and nervous laughter in response to the passenger’s strange behavior helped break the ice between her and the stoic eastern European woman sitting in the window seat next to her.
The man, whom passengers described as 5’10, very thin, pale, and with long brown hair and a scraggly beard, reportedly unbuckled his seatbelt while the fasten seatbelt sign was still on and made an alarming gesture while listening to a Bob Marley album on the in-flight entertainment system shortly after taking off.
“He raised both his hands and looked up, as if gesturing to some sort of god,” said Phil Watson, who was seated behind the man. Mr. Watson, who was returning home to London after attending his cousin’s wedding in the Hamptons, stated that he made an effort to ensure his and his fellow passengers’ safety by craning his neck to stare intently at the man from his seat as the suspicious passenger walked at an alarming clip up and down the aisle several times over the course of the seven-hour flight. Mr. Watson said that he took extra precaution by tapping the shoulder of his friend seated across the aisle from him while the strangely behaved man was out of his seat and stating solemnly, “We should at least mention it to [the flight attendants].”
While no Virgin Atlantic flight attendants responded to requests for comment, other concerned passengers seated in the vicinity said that Mr. Watson did not take such action.
Other passengers reported feeling nervous as they watched the man take his jacket off and put it back on at least four times during the flight and leap out of his seat and walk alarmingly fast to the front of the plane as soon as the fasten seatbelt sign turned off after landing at London Heathrow.
Passengers’ conjectures on who the man was differed. “I thought he might have been, you know, special needs,” said Phyllis Hawthorne in a lowered voice, who sat in the center aisle with her young grandson and the strange passenger. Others credited the man’s atypical behavior and thin figure to possible drug use. All passengers interviewed, however, agreed that if the man’s complexion had been about four shades darker, the airplane would have made an emergency landing almost immediately.