Pilot had passenger detained for not flushing toilet

Posted: April 30, 2013

A passenger who flew from Philadelphia to San Francisco was detained on arrival by federal agents after a vindictive flight attendant claimed he had not flushed a lavatory toilet, according to a federal suit.

The suit, which seeks $500,000 in damages, was filed last week in the Northern District of California.

Salvatore Bevivino, 52, a business manager for Genentech, boarded a Virgin America flight on April 28, 2012. After the plane reached cruising altitude over Indiana, the former Amblerite pushed the call button and asked for a soda.

According to the suit, a male attendant told Bevivino that if he wanted a drink he would have to use a computer touch screen installed on the back of the facing seat.

When another attendant passed a minute later, Bevivino made the request for a second time and asked why they couldn't deliver a drink like other airlines. After Bevivino said he would contact Virgin America, a third attendant brought him the soda.

The aircraft landed at San Francisco International. But as Bevivino began to disembark he was pulled aside by the plane's captain "as a person of suspicion."

Bevivino said he had no idea why he was detained. Initially he believed that his swarthy Italian complexion may have caused him to be mistaken for someone from the Middle East.

Then the pilot asked him why'd he'd been yelling obscenities at his crew.

And added that he'd left the toilet unflushed.

The pilot then asked a half-dozen uniformed police, FBI and TSA agents to remove Bevivino.

According to a police incident report, a flight attendant told an investigator that Bevivino had gone to the restroom after asking for the drink:

"[He] came back out with a smile on his face and began using profanities. [Name redacted] passed by the restroom and saw that Bevivino left the door open and did not flush the toilet."

The police report notes the captain didn't believe he or his flight crew ever felt threatened by Bevivino.

Bevivino, who now lives in the Bay Area, told police he had not yelled obscenities at anyone or left any toilet unflushed. He only had been trying to order a drink, was flustered with problems with the onboard computer, and had become frustrated when the flight attendant ignored him, according to the police report.

Bevivino was eventually released, but only after the incident had caused him embarrassment, humiliation, mortification, mental anguish and emotional distress, and damage to his professional reputation, according to the suit.

The complaint states that Virgin America violated Bevivino's civil rights through false imprisonment, discrimination, and denial of equal rights.


Contact staff writer Sam Wood at 215-854-2796, @samwoodiii or samwood@phillynews.com.

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