A former British Airways flight attendant has been jailed for sparking panic on a Jet2 flight from Portugal to the English city of Newcastle, by telling cabin crew he wanted to die and trying to open the rear door of the aircraft.
Joseph Hemmingway, 28, had been drinking heavily beforehand, when his behaviour grew increasingly erratic on theJet2 flight, Newcastle Crown Court was told.
The low-cost airline has been involved in a number of unsavoury incidents recently, including one in which a passenger bit off a fellow traveller’s ear during a disagreement.
Hemmingway told airline staff he was HIV positive and added that he used to work for British Airways. The disclosure of airline knowledge caused alarm that he might somehow succeed in opening the plane’s door, the Hartlepool Mail reported. The plane was descending to land at the time and there was fear the air pressure just might have allowed him to get the door open.
Two off-duty policemen leapt up and restrained Hemmingway, who tried to bite one of them, the court heard.
The two policemen wrestled Hemmingway to the floor as the aircraft descended and landed safely.
The ordeal began, the paper reported, after Hemmingway complained to cabin crew about someone in the next seat watching a TV show about people taking crystal meth. Hemmingway said this offended him as the drug had killed his boyfriend.
Hemmingway then showed female flight attendants a letter addressed to his boyfriend, saying he wanted to “join him”. He then swallowed between three and six Valium tablets, causing cabin crew to go straight to the captain and report a passenger causing trouble.
Hemmingway was also accused of trying to reach the cockpit to speak to the pilot and of drinking from crew water bottles and telling them he had AIDS.
Police arrested Hemmingway on the tarmac. On being apprehended, he denied he had tried to open the plane door and said people must have overreacted because of his backpack and his “ethnic appearance”.
Hemmingway pleaded guilty to endangering the safety of an aircraft.
Charles Knowles, defending, said his client had shown remorse and was unlikely to reoffend.
The loss of his partner, plus the burden of living with AIDS and suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome, caused Hemmingway to use alcohol and drugs as a coping mechanism, the court heard.
Judge Edward Bindloss said the behaviour demanded an immediate custodial sentence.
“I have to take into account several things such as the fact that you are HIV positive and attempted to bite people,” the judge told Hemmingway.
“The passengers and crew could not escape you. Flying is stressful enough without this sort of incident for these people returning from their holidays.”
He jailed Hemmingway for 18 months
Written by Peter Needham