Man accused of hurling racial slurs on flight from Hawaii

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa – A man has been accused of hurling racial slurs and curse words at a flight crew, creating such a ruckus on a flight from Honolulu to the territory of American Samoa that the pilots nearly turned the plane around.

Two flight attendants and a pilot told police that Duke Ueli Viena was intoxicated when he got on the flight Friday night in Honolulu, according to court records. He wanted more drinks while other passengers were boarding the flight.

After the Hawaiian Airlines flight took off, he swore and made racial comments toward flight attendants, the crew alleged in court documents.

Pilots almost turned back to Honolulu before other passengers and Samoan chiefs on the plane were able to calm him. Viena, of the Samoan capital of Pago Pago, was arrested when the plane landed in the U.S. territory.

Viena faces a misdemeanour charge of public peace disturbance and will appear in territorial district court next week after making an initial appearance Monday. His public defender declined to comment.

FBI Honolulu spokesman Thomas Simon Jr. says the agency is investigating to see if federal charges are warranted.

“Once we have a better idea exactly what occurred on the flight, we will consult with the U.S. Attorney’s Office who will make a decision whether the suspect will face federal charges,” he said from Honolulu.

Hawaiian Airlines spokeswoman Ann Botticelli declined to comment, citing privacy issues of the airline’s passengers and crew.