Flight forced to turn around after woman fakes illness for better seat, police say

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An early morning redeye flight out of Pensacola, Fla., was forced to turn around shortly after takeoff Friday when a woman who was denied a bigger seat claimed she was in medical distress, police said.

The incident happened aboard an American Airlines flight that departed Pensacola for Miami at 5:43 a.m., according to the Pensacola Police Department.

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The woman initially asked flight attendants to give her a bigger seat, police information officer Mike Wood told CNN. The woman’s request was denied, and she soon started complaining that she was having trouble breathing.

The flight crew reported her medical distress to police and the pilot turned back to Pensacola for an emergency landing at 6:26 a.m.

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After landing, the flight crew realized the woman did not have a medical issue, Wood told NBC News. Instead, she admitted that she’d made up the issue and simply wanted a bigger seat. The woman also refused to get off the plane, even after all the other passengers got out.

Police and the flight captain eventually talked her into leaving the plane.

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The woman was taken into custody under Florida’s Baker Act, which allows police to detain someone who may be a threat to themselves or others. The act allows the person to be placed in a mental health facility for up to 72 hours.

The woman has not been named and as of this writing, no charges have been announced.

The flight was delayed by two hours and took off for a second time at 7:41 a.m., American Airlines told NBC News.