London’s Metropolitan Police arrested a 39-year-old deputy U.S. Marshal on Wednesday morning at Heathrow Airport for acting inappropriately while intoxicated on a flight from New York, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.
The police in London said they received reports around 6:30 a.m. local time from the staff on an inbound Delta flight “that a passenger was disruptive and had sexually assaulted other passengers and crew.”
The police said he was taken into custody, where he remained as of Thursday morning as an investigation continues.
Delta said that because of “unruly passenger behavior while in flight, Delta Flight 1, J.F.K. to London-Heathrow, was met by local law enforcement upon landing, and Delta is cooperating with their investigation,” but declined to give more information.
The man was one of two marshals on the flight traveling to London, the Marshals Service said. The second marshal was briefly detained but has since returned to the United States.
The Marshals Service’s duties include apprehending federal fugitives, housing and transporting federal prisoners, and operating the Witness Security Program.
“The U.S. Marshals Service takes seriously any allegations of misconduct by its employees,” the agency said in a statement. “The alleged actions of the employees do not reflect the professionalism of the thousands of employees of the U.S.M.S. or its core values.”
Airlines saw an increase in unruly behavior on flights during the pandemic, though many of those centered on mask policies. The number of disruptive midair episodes peaked in 2021, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, with almost 6,000 incidents — a 492 percent increase from the prior year. Shaky cellphone footage of brawls and insults on planes became a staple on social media.
The numbers dipped in 2022 after mask mandates ended, with a total of 2,455 recorded incidents. In 2023 the numbers have dropped again, with 1,931 incidents so far, according to the F.A.A.