The extraordinary case of an American man alleged to have demanded more and more crackers and nuts to nibble during an international flight (progressing to behaviour so erratic the pilot diverted the aircraft and dumped 50,000 litres of fuel) has surfaced again in court, with the man saying he asked for more crackers because he was hungry.
Jeremiah Mathis Thede, 42, denied behaving aggressively towards cabin crew during a United Airlines flight from Rome to Chicago last June. The incident was said at the time to have cost United Airlines a sum equivalent to AUD 646,000, with some 270 passengers delayed 24 hours and many ending up sleeping on the floor of Belfast Airport, to which the plane was diverted. (See: Cracker and nut case costs airline a fortune)
When the case arose again in Antrim Crown Court in Northern Ireland this week, Thede, from Berkeley, California, blamed a flight attendant for acting evasively.
Thede told the court he was given one snack – two crackers and a small piece of cheese – which failed to fill him. He says that when he approached flight attendant Lisa Hall to ask for a second portion, she refused his request.
He said: “I am a frequent flyer, I have been flying my whole life, I am flying with frequent flyer miles. In all my experience of flying I have not heard that policy before.
“Any time I requested snacks they asked me how many I wanted and they gave me as many as I wanted complimentary so I was questioning the policy she had just quoted.”
He said it was not a heated conversation and he did not point in the attendant’s face nor swear at her, the Belfast Newsletter reported.
Thede says Hall refused to give him her name and was “evasive”. He denied chasing Hall down the aisle or brandishing a pen and paper when asking for her name.
Last year, the court heard Thede had made insistent demands for nuts and crackers, then paced the aisle, lifting bags and disturbing the 282 passengers and crew.
Thede told Antrim Crown Court this week he had opened overhead lockers because he was hungry and couldn’t sleep, so he had used part of the flight to write up the contact details of people he had met while travelling. That entailed opening the overhead lockers to check through various pieces of baggage. Also, he needed to find another layer of clothes to put on because he was lightly dressed. It was hot in Rome and the cabin had become relatively cold.
A senior flight attendant has said she was approached by concerned passengers over Thede’s actions, the Belfast Newsletter said.
The plane had to dump thousands of litres of fuel before diverting to Belfast, where the flight crew ran out of hours.
The hearing continues.