EDMONTON – Justin Frank’s actions on a flight from London to Calgary last August still haunt him, and on Monday, he was sentenced and fined for them.
On the flight about six months ago, the 36 year-old was intoxicated, grinding his pelvis two inches from a flight attendant’s face, and asking her if she wanted to “party in the lavatory.” He grazed her breast with his arm while trying to grab her buttocks. He also punched a television screen before crew and passengers wrestled him to the ground, and restrained him until the plane could make an emergency landing in Edmonton.
Frank had already pleaded guilty to assault, mischief and failing to follow directions of a flight crew.
In a Leduc courtroom, Frank received a one year suspended sentence for his actions. He was also ordered to pay more than $15,000 dollars in restitution to Air Canada, along with a $4,000 dollar fine.
Frank must take part in any alcohol counselling that his probation officer ordered, as well.
In her sentence, Judge Marilyn White said: “This offence was very serious, very serious.” She called it an “intrusion of the peace and tranquility of members of our society in a place they could not leave.”
Frank, who was coming back from working 11 weeks overseas and was apparently exhausted, has asked for a conditional discharge, which would mean no criminal record. His lawyer Rick Muenz says the incident is unlike him and he is very apologetic for it.
“It’s been extremely difficult. He’s been humiliated. Expressed a lot of regret and remorse and has done a lot of soul searching.”
Meanwhile, a Cape Breton family – whose unruly behaviour and smoking is being blamed for forcing an emergency landing in Bermuda on Friday – may be facing a $40,000 lawsuit from a Canadian tour operator.
Last year through Access to Information legislation, Global News obtained reports relating to a total of 784 disruptive passenger incidents, submitted by airlines to Transport Canada.
While disruptive passenger incidents are uncommon, amounting to a small fraction of one per cent of passengers according to Air Canada, intoxication was cited as a contributing factor in 39 per cent of these cases, making it by far the biggest contributor to disorderly conduct on flights and in airports.
Sgt. Kevin Greenhalgh, of the Peel Police’s Pearson Airport Division, thinks that number is even higher – he estimates that about 75 per cent of the disruptive passenger cases he sees are related to alcohol.
“A lot of times what will happen is people will buy drinks on the flight, but the flight attendants are unaware that the person might have had too much before they even got on the plane, or it’s illegal to do this, but they’ll be consuming their own alcohol on the plane. So they might order a Coke, but then they’re pouring rum or something into it, without the flight attendants being aware of it,” he said.
He gets one or two requests every week from airlines asking him to come and deal with an unruly passenger, which involves either meeting the plane at the gate or dealing with a disgruntled customer at the airport. Calls are more frequent during the winter tropical vacation season, as resort-goers return to the Canadian climate and their work lives.
Interfering with the performance of a crew member’s duties is an offence under the Aeronautics Act. An indictment conviction could mean a fine of up to $100,000 or a maximum five years jail time, and a summary conviction could mean a fine of up to $25,000 or up to 18 months jail time.
In some cases, in addition to charges, passengers could also find themselves stripped of their flying privileges. Air Canada, for example, occasionally bans troublesome passengers from booking tickets with their airline.
With files from Fletcher Kent and Leslie Young, Global News and The Canadian Press