A Frontier Airlines Airbus A321.
- A man had to be restrained with zip ties on board a February 9 Frontier Airlines flight, officials said.
- Michael Aaron Ganter was arrested and charged with interference with a flight crew.
- Authorities said Ganter made several threatening comments, including to a young child.
Flight crew and passengers on board a Frontier Airlines flight earlier this month had to restrain an unruly passenger with zip ties after they said he made several threatening statements, federal officials said.
Michael Aaron Ganter, 37, appeared in court on Wednesday on charges of interfering with a flight crew and flight attendants, according to a press release from the US Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of North Carolina.
Prosecutors say Ganter’s mid-air threats on February 9 forced the Orlando-bound flight to divert to Raleigh-Durham.
According to court documents reviewed by Insider, prosecutors said the trouble began about an hour after Flight 1335 departed New York when Ganter awoke from a nap. Ganter began making concerning comments to other passengers around him, prosecutors said, including telling people that he was being stuck with needles and his DNA was being collected.
Ganter also stated he was from “the Indian tribe Slapahoe,” and threatened to slap people around him and beat them to death, a criminal complaint said.
Among the passengers Ganter threatened was a small child and the child’s mother, according to prosecutors. Ganter reportedly said he would kill the child and beat the child’s mother in front of them.
In response to the eye-raising comments, flight attendants began moving passengers away from Ganter and asked other able-bodied passengers to assist, according to the complaint. When several people moved toward Ganter’s seat, authorities said Ganter became agitated and stood up in what was viewed as an “aggressive” manner.
The passengers began restraining Ganter by placing zip ties on his hands and wrapping saran wrap around his feet, according to court documents. One passenger told officials that Ganter flailed his arms and legs in an attempt to avoid being constrained which led to a struggle. Another passenger told authorities that Ganter tried to punch him, while another said she was tossed into a window while attempting to get away from the scene.
The pilot diverted the plane in response to Ganter’s conduct, prosecutors said, and local police escorted him off the plane.
Ganter told authorities that he had felt pokes into his skin and five guys attacked him, according to court documents.
An attorney for Ganter did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
The incident is the latest example of unruly passenger behavior on board planes, which has skyrocketed since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“Passengers who threaten violence in the close confines of a commercial aircraft put everyone in danger,” US Attorney Michael Easley said in the news release. “My office will continue to aggressively prosecute federal crimes in the skies and ensure the safety of the flying public.”
There have already been nearly 400 reports of unruly passenger behavior in 2022, more than half of which were related to masking, according to data from the Federal Aviation Administration. 2021 saw nearly 6,000 incidents, which prompted more than 1,000 investigations.