The unexpected series of events unfolded Wednesday as Southwest Airlines Flight 478 was preparing to depart from California's Sacramento International Airport.
While on the tarmac, the flight crew discovered that a maintenance light had come on in the cockpit, prompting officials to address the matter. The flight, bound for Austin, Texas, ended up being delayed by a few hours after officials wound up also having to refuel the plane before air traffic controllers cleared it for takeoff.
"We returned to the gate to wait for maintenance and to refuel, and then waited for clearance from air traffic control — in all, we were delayed by three to four hours," Peter Uzelac, one of the passengers aboard the flight, told Yahoo Lifestyle.
In a bid to keep passengers at ease during the waiting period, flight attendants passed out drinks, according to Uzelac. It was as one attendant approached Uzelac's row that things quickly turned sour when his row buddy opted to test out his comedic skills.
Per Uzelac, the fellow traveler jokingly remarked, "Wow, I hope that's vodka, because we've been sitting here for so long," when he was handed his very own water cup from the flight attendant. The attendant went along, saying that the drink was indeed vodka.
As the attendant tended to travelers in a different row, the man later remarked that the drink wasn't vodka, which subsequently caused the flight attendant to get heated and confront the jokester.
"She came by and was like, ‘I don't think that and I didn't like your joke,'" Uzelac explained to local California station Fox 40. "Then my wife tried to butt-in there and say, ‘Look it, we've been on this plane for hours.' And she says, ‘Well, so have I, so get used to it.'"
After walking away, leaving several nearby passengers in a state of shock, Uzelac told the station that he spotted the flight attendant on a phone near the front of the plane. Within moments the plane taxied back to the terminal, only to be met by three law enforcement officials with the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department. They boarded the plane and escorted the failed comedian off.
According to Uzelac, as it became clear one of their fellow sufferers was going to be ejected, passengers began shouting, informing the deputies that the man hadn't actually done anything wrong. "People started yelling then. In fact, people stood up. I stood up," he recalled to the station.
When the flight landed in Austin, Uzelac exchanged brief glances with the flight attendant. He told Yahoo that the attendant "stood next to the pilot and smirked" at him.
"I feel bad for the guy — he should sue the airline," he said, noting that he filed a complaint with Southwest over the incident. "Flying is almost scary because you don't know who you're going to anger."
"You can't say anything to anyone," he added.
The Sacramento County Sheriff's Department informed Fox 40 that the unidentified passenger was not charged with a crime. It's unclear whether or not the individual managed to book another flight to Texas.
Southwest Airlines has responded to the incident by stating that it regrets "any less-than-positive experience a customer has onboard our aircraft" and that the airline's Customer Relations Team will be informed of the matter.