A woman who tried to open the emergency exit door onboard a Jet2.com flight to Dalaman last summer, forcing the aircraft to return to Stansted airport, has been jailed.
Chloe Haines, 26, of Loudwater, Bucks, became verbally abusive towards passengers and crew before trying to open the door said Essex Police, leaving the entire plane, including experienced crew, “in fear for their safety”.
Her antics, which police and Jet2.com said were due to excessive drinking before the flight took off from Stansted on 22 June last year, resulted in the RAF scrambling two fighter jets to escort the aircraft back to the Essex airport.
Jet2.com chief executive Steve Heapy described the incident as “one of the most serious cases of disruptive passenger behaviour” the airline had ever had to deal with.
Haines admitted two offences, one of assault on a member of Jet2.com cabin crew and another of recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft, at a hearing at Chelmsford crown court on 23 December. She denied a charge of being drunk on an aircraft.
She was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment at the same court on Wednesday (12 February). She has also been banned from flying with Jet2.com for life, with the carrier stating the incident cost in the region of £86,000.
Chief Inspector Lee Devall, Essex Police’s deputy commander at Stansted airport, said: “This was a terrifying incident which left an entire plane, including experienced cabin crew members, in fear for their safety.
“If Haines had managed to open the door, there’s no telling what might have happened to those onboard. The cabin crew put their lives at risk to prevent the door being opened, even though they were incredibly frightened. They showed immense bravery and should be commended.”
Devall added: “We will not tolerate dangerous or disruptive passengers. We appreciate Haines has apologised profusely, and is mortified by her actions, but this must serve as a warning to anyone who drinks before boarding a flight: if you cause trouble, you will be arrested and we will seek an appropriate course of action to protect your fellow passengers.”
Heapy said Jet2.com welcomed the decision and the court’s willingness to take the issue of disruptive passenger behaviour seriously. “Ms Haines’ behaviour was one of the most serious cases of disruptive passenger behaviour that we have experienced, and we have banned her from flying with us for life," said Heapy.
“Her actions caused distress for customers as well as our crew, and as a family-friendly airline carrying millions of holidaymakers every year, we simply will not tolerate this on our flights.
“It is evident excessive alcohol consumption was a contributing factor in this incident. We have been leading the industry to tackle the issue of drinking to excess before flying, as well as the illicit consumption of duty free alcohol onboard the aircraft, for some time.
“As another busy summer approaches, we look forward to continuing to work with the government and our partners across the industry to ensure that everyone has an enjoyable and comfortable journey without the minority spoiling it.”
Citing case prosecutor Michael Crimp, the BBC reports Haines shouted “I want to die” and “I’m going to kill you all” when cabin crew and fellow passengers attempted to restrain her.
The court heard Haines had received a community order for a similar offence involving alcohol and a loss of control just 17 days before the flight.
Haines’ defence counsel Oliver Saxby QC said the 26-year-old was a “troubled young person with a number of serious issues”.