U.K. Passenger Who Tried to Open Plane Door Midflight Is Jailed for 2 Years

LONDON — A British woman who in a drunken fit tried to open the door of a passenger plane thousands of feet above the North Sea has been jailed for two years and barred for life from the airline, officials said.

The woman, Chloe Haines, was on an evening flight with Jet2, a British budget airline, from Stansted Airport, east of London, bound for Dalaman, in southwestern Turkey, when she leapt for a door of the plane, scratched a member of the crew and shouted, “I’m going to kill you all,” according to the BBC.

Fellow passengers helped the plane crew restrain Ms. Haines, a spokesman for Jet2 told The New York Times in July. Military jets were scrambled to escort the plane back to Britain, where she was arrested.

In testimony on Wednesday at Chelmsford Crown Court in England, “the prosecution said that she was drunk, loud and argumentative,” her lawyer, Oliver Saxby, said in an email on Thursday.

Ms. Haines, 26, pleaded guilty to “endangering the safety of an aircraft and common assault” during the flight, Mr. Saxby said.

Not much more is known about Ms. Haines or why she went for the plane door. But her lawyer said that “having been asked to sit down, she became upset and tried to grab the handle of one of the doors, apparently in an attempt to open it.”

The lawyer told the court on Wednesday that Ms. Haines “wasn’t just drunk; she was unwell.” He also said that she had not consumed alcohol since the fateful flight in June and that she was “deeply embarrassed by what she did,” the BBC reported.

“She sobbed throughout the hearing,” Mr. Saxby added on Thursday.

Some researchers have noted that the stress of flying has increased over the years — fueled by stricter safety protocols, higher fares, increased fees and, more often than not, alcohol — contributing to a rise in unruly behavior on planes.

The International Air Transport Association, an industry trade group that has about 290 member airlines, said that there was one disruptive episode for every 1,053 flights in 2017. In 2016, there was one incident for every 1,424 flights, it said.

In some cases, pilots have been forced to turn planes around, creating major delays.

Ms. Haines’s behavior prompted alarmed officials to summon two Typhoon military fighter jets from the Royal Air Force to escort the plane back to Stansted Airport.

The situation on board was judged to be so serious that the jets sped to the plane, creating a sonic boom that “could be heard for miles around,” the airline said in a statement in July.

Officers from Essex Police boarded the aircraft after it landed and arrested Ms. Haines on suspicion of common assault, criminal damage and endangering an aircraft, the authorities said on Twitter at the time.

Steve Heapy, the airline’s chief executive, welcomed the court’s decision, saying in a statement on Wednesday that Ms. Haines’s conduct, which had distressed the airline’s crew and customers, was “one of the most serious cases of disruptive passenger” behavior that the airline had experienced.

Mr. Heapy said that “excessive alcohol consumption was a contributing factor in this incident,” and added that the airline was working on tackling the issue of excessive drinking in the airport ahead of and on board a flight.

Mr. Saxby said on Thursday that he did not know where she would serve her sentence. He noted that the maximum sentence for endangering the safety of an aircraft was five years.

The airline said in its July statement that it had barred Ms. Haines for life and billed her more than 85,000 pounds, over $110,000, to recover the costs of diverting the plane back to Stansted.

Jet2 did not immediately confirm on Thursday whether Ms. Haines had paid it back.

Source: nytimes.com

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