Passengers restrained unruly man with zip ties, plastic wrap

A 37-year-old man faces federal charges after becoming so unruly on a Frontier Airlines flight that crew members and other passengers had to restrain him with zip ties and plastic wrap.

Michael Ganter is accused of threatening crew and passengers aboard a Feb. 9 flight from Queens, New York to Orlando, Florida. The incident forced the pilots to divert the flight and make an unscheduled landing at Raleigh-Durham International Airport in North Carolina.

The commotion came about an hour into what was supposed to be a three-hour flight, after Ganter woke up from a nap and began making “worrying statements” to other passengers.

A passenger said Ganter claimed he was stuck with needles and his DNA was being collected. Another said he claimed “he was from the ‘Slapahoe’ Indian tribe and was going to slap people and beat them to death,” the Washington Post reported. Things escalated when he allegedly threatened a mother and small child who were sitting behind him.

“Ganter began making statements threatening the flight passengers with violence and became increasingly disruptive during the flight,” the Justice Department said in a statement. “The flight attendants called for help from other passengers, who held Ganter down.”

Along with the flight crew, the passengers used zippers to hold Ganter’s wrists in place and plastic wrap to bind his ankles, the Post reported.

Police boarded the plane in Raleigh and removed Ganter. He was taken to a medical center for evaluation.

“Passengers who threaten to use violence within the confines of a commercial aircraft put everyone at risk,” U.S. Attorney Michael Easley said in a statement. “My office will continue to aggressively pursue federal crimes in the skies and ensure the safety of the flying public. Safe air travel is critical to our economy and keeping families connected. No passengers, flight crew or flight attendants shouldn’t have to fly in fear.”

The incident caused a delay of about two hours, but the flight eventually reached Orlando.

Airlines have seen an increase in disruptive passenger behavior since the coronavirus pandemic began in 2020. Last year, the Federal Aviation Administration received 5,981 reports of unruly behavior, 4,290 of which were related to face masks. So far this year, nearly 400 unruly passenger reports have been filed with the FAA.

Bryce K. Locke