An inconsiderate airline passenger delayed a flight by eight hours after ‘joking’ that he had coronavirus following a row over a tray table.

Terrifed passengers watched as a hazmat crew boarded the American Airlines flight from Dallas to Nashville, Tennessee, on Saturday after the coronavirus prankster refused to lift his tray table before take-off.

The unnamed passenger responded to repeated requests to stow the table by claiming he had the virus, which has so far infected at least 3,774 Americans and killed 69 across the US.

Passenger Brandon Kenney said: ‘People were freaked out because nobody knew what was going on.

‘People didn’t know if he was actually sick or if he really didn’t have coronavirus or not.’

The passenger was removed from the flight by police officers, who later sought to reassure his fellow fliers by telling them that the man ‘wasn’t all there.’

Kenney told WKRN: ‘Right after he was escorted off the plane, one of the cops came back and kind of explained the situation to the people that were sitting near him and kind of spelled it out for us and told us not to worry about it and really was just talking about how he was joking about having the coronavirus.’

But the incident left some members of the plane’s crew too spooked to fly. The plane then suffered a mammoth delay as American Airlines sought replacement stewards, with the flight also suffering maintenance issues.

The flight, which was meant to arrive in Nashville at 8:40pm on Saturday night, eventually reached its destination at 4:40am the next morning.

The passenger has since been arrested for making a false claim. Coronavirus has sparked a huge crisis in the US aviation industry, with American Airlines cutting its schedule by 30%

Rival airline Delta has slashed its flights by 40%, with analysts warning the crisis will have a bigger impact on the industry than the 9/11 attacks or financial crisis of 2008.

Donald Trump has slapped a ban on travelers from Europe visiting the US for at least 30 days, with coronavirus leaving others too scared to fly domestically, or banned by their employers from doing so.

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