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July 22, 2015

Unruly passenger forces flight diversion to Philly

An American Airlines passenger allegedly tried to smash plane's window while in flight

An American Airlines flight travelling from Charlotte to London was rerouted to Philadelphia after an unruly passenger needed to be physically restrained by flight crew and passengers.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania filed a criminal complaint against Sarah Elizabeth Buffett, of Charlotte, for allegedly assaulting and intimidating crew members and interfering with their performance duties.

Flight 732, which departed Charlotte at 11:17 p.m. Tuesday, was diverted to Philadelphia International Airport, landing Wednesday at 4:36 a.m. The flight on Airbus A330, carrying 267 passengers and being operated by U.S. Airways, was cancelled due to crew restrictions.

"We apologize to our customers, and have re-accommodated them on alternate flights," American Airlines said in a statement.

Buffett, seated in first class, allegedly became physically aggressive and was damaging her seat, according to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday. She allegedly tried to smash the aircraft window with an entertainment system remote before getting out of her seat and acting in a menacing manner in front of the cockpit door.

Flight attendants were unable to restrain Buffett and needed assistance from passengers to place Buffett in plastic restraints, according to the complaint. Buffett allegedly removed the restraints twice before she was held down by a passenger and had tape wrapped around her lower legs.

Buffett told investigators that she drank at least three glasses of wine and took a Zaleplon pill prescribed for her insomnia, the complaint said. She said she did not remember anything after requesting not to be served dinner. Her next memory, she told investigators, came after being physically restrained by an unknown male and learning of the flight's diversion to Philadelphia.

Buffett was removed from the aircraft by several law enforcement officers and transported to the Tinicum Township Police Department for investigation.