Sunwing Airlines plans to sue couple over diverted Caribbean flight

HAMILTON, Bermuda, Tuesday February 5, 2013 – A Canadian low-cost airline says it plans to sue a couple after they were fined US$500 each in a court here following an altercation on a Caribbean-bound plane which forced the captain to divert the airline to Bermuda.

Bermuda police arrested the Canadian couple and their 22-year-old son after the Sunwing Airlines’ flight, carrying 170 passengers, touched down at Bermuda’s L.F. Wade International Airport last Friday. A younger son with the family was not arrested.

The plane continued its journey to its original destination on Saturday.

A Sunwing spokesman told reporters the airline footed the bill for the 170 passengers who were forced to overnight in Bermuda, saying the air-rage incident could cost as much as US$50,000.

The spokesman said the cost would also include landing fees, flying a mechanic to Bermuda to check the aircraft for stress fractures due to the fact it had to land overweight as well as hotel and meals for passengers stuck in both Bermuda and the Dominican Republic.

The spokesman said Sunwing intended to seek recourse and planned to sue the family in civil court.

The Magistrate’s Court was told that the pilot decided to divert to Bermuda two hours into the flight, after David McNeil, Sr, 54, who pleaded guilty to behaving in a disorderly manner and using profane language towards a member of the flight crew and his 52-year-old wife, Donna McNeil, admitted disobeying a lawful command.

The incidents started after their son, David McNeil, Jr, was refused access to the plane’s toilets as the aircraft took off from Halifax.

The son was initially charged with smoking on the aircraft but prosecutors chose to offer no evidence against him after he pleaded not guilty. He was discharged by Senior Magistrate Archibald Warner.

The court heard that while passengers had been asked not to move, the son left his seat to go to the bathroom and refused the flight attendant’s orders to return to his seat.

After the father swore at the attendant, the mother started cursing at the crew. The three were told

to return to their seats, but did not do so and kept moving about the plane.

The magistrate ordered the parents to pay their US$500 fines immediately or face 10 days in jail. (CMC) Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)