"After the person came back out of the restroom, he went back to his seat. At that time, the flight attendant noticed that the bathroom appeared to be a little bit in disarray, meaning it was untidy, there were some paper towels and a few doors and things like that open," says Jim Holcomb of LAX police.
That was enough to raise the suspicions of the plane's captain, who then brought the jetliner and its 110 passengers back to the terminal.
"A number of police officers came on the plane and removed one individual initially and then there were a couple of other people, but we didn't know if these people were being screened or not or being questioned about the behavior of the first individual," said a passenger on the flight who wished to remain anonymous.
Once back at the gate, airport police removed the man and a passenger sitting next to him from the plane without incident. After questioning the man, the FBI released a statement saying, "The passenger is being interviewed in connection with the incident and is cooperative. No criminal charges are anticipated."
"Passengers are traveling on board an aircraft. The instructions from flight attendants are not options, they are very specific and are driven by FAA regulations and safety and security regulations," says Darren Shiroma, president of the Association of Flight Attendants.
Shiroma also emphasized that defying the flight attendant's instructions can lead to fines and even arrest.
In t his situation, all the passengers were removed from the plane, rescreened and allowed to get back on board. The Unite Airlines flight eventually took off for New York several hours late, which was a very inconvenient price to pay for a relatively short restroom break.
As for the two men who were questioned, the FBI says they didn't know each other before the flight and they had just met on the plane.
One booked a flight on another airline to go to NY, and the other decided to stay in Los Angeles.