(Reuters) - An airliner flying from Hawaii to Japan was forced to turn back and land in Honolulu after a passenger insisted on doing yoga in the galley in defiance of the crew, an FBI spokesman said on Thursday.
Hyongtae Pae, 72, was charged in federal court on Monday with interfering with the crew of an aircraft in connection with the disturbance last Saturday aboard United Airlines flight 903 bound for Tokyo’s Narita airport.
Pae reportedly ignored crew instructions and, during meal service, headed to the galley in the back of the plane to “meditate and do yoga,” according to an affidavit filed in federal court.
When his wife, who was traveling with him, tried to persuade him to sit down, Pae reportedly grew agitated, pushing her and yelling.
Several U.S. Marines who were on the plane helped the crew escort Pae to his seat, said Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent Tom Simon, a spokesman for the agency’s Honolulu office.
“While yoga and meditation can be beneficial activities, it doesn’t negate the need to obey flight crew instructions while in the air,” Simon said.
“The fact that the defendant’s alleged misconduct caused the flight to be turned around in the air gives you an idea of the seriousness of this situation,” Simon said.
Pae, a retired farmer, was headed home to South Korea, via Japan, and was sleep-deprived after his first visit to Hawaii, his attorney, J.T. Kim, told Reuters.
“He was trying to calm himself down,” Kim said. “I guess that’s why he wanted to do some yoga, to calm himself down.”
A federal judge on Wednesday ordered Pae released on bail of $25,000, but told him to turn over his South Korean passport and stay on the island of Oahu.
If convicted, Pae faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Sara Catania and Sandra Maler
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