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San Francisco-bound plane diverted over disruptive passenger

Associated Press logo Associated Press 3/01/2017 By ALINA HARTOUNIAN

A San Francisco-bound flight from Australia was diverted to New Zealand because of an unruly passenger who berated the flight crew and other passengers with derogatory slurs, according to a passenger onboard.

Neil Kay of San Francisco told The Associated Press that the man became outraged when two men he was seated in-between spoke over him on the New Year's Day flight.

"That was it. That was what set him off and he jumped up and started screaming," Kay said. "The veins in his neck were bulging."

The outbursts continued for several hours — at one point the man began pulling soda cans from the drink cart — before the crew decided to turn the plane around and land in Auckland, Kay said.

Videos Kay shot showed the man cursing profusely while on his phone and telling a flight attendant, "Do you know how cool it would be to have the airplane turned around cause of me?" before he made a disparaging comment about her weight.

United spokeswoman Erin Benson would only say the flight was diverted because a passenger failed to follow crew instructions. She said authorities in New Zealand met the man on the plane.

According to San Jose, California, TV station KNTV, the man will not be charged but will remain in custody until arrangements are made for his trip back to the U.S.

The six-hour ordeal wasn't without an upside. As they waited to board their flight back to San Francisco, Kay celebrated the New Year with his fellow passengers and a glass of champagne.

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Follow Alina Hartounian on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ahartoun .

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