A group of drunken men on a stag do have been jailed after making an eight hour flight ‘hell’ for everyone else on board.
I’m sure we’ve all been caught on public transport with a rowdy stag or hen do at one time or another, but thankfully it’s usually just on a quick flight to somewhere in Europe or on a train heading for Blackpool.
I can’t even imagine how annoying it would be to get stuck with a drunken group on a long-haul flight. It’s one of the most annoying situations to experience on a plane; up there with a crying baby and someone putting their feet on your chair.
Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened to passengers on a Thomas Cook flight from Manchester to Las Vegas on March 24, when the stag do boarded the 8am flight ready to celebrate.
In keeping with the British tradition which embraces early morning drinking at the airport, construction boss Michael Ward and three of his seven stags got drunk on rum and vodka before they boarded the flight, and they took even more alcohol on the plane with them.
During the 5,000 mile journey from Manchester Airport, the cabin crew had to confiscate five litres of alcohol from the group when they became rowdy and started swearing at fellow passengers.
One of the members reportedly began performing drunken press ups in the aisle while shouting ‘boom’, and another deliberately sat opposite a stewardess and stared at her, saying ‘I’m going to ruin your time like you’ve ruined ours’ when she refused to serve him alcohol.
The stags fought each other and dropped their trousers, and two even tried to lift the skirt of one female member of cabin crew.
One passenger, Francis Dwyer, recalled the horrendous events in a statement, saying:
They were were screaming and shouting and one of them called a stewardess a ‘scouse bitch’ when she refused to serve them alcohol. I could see males behind us fighting and punching each other whilst one was doing push ups in the aisle. It was eight hours of pure hell.
The pilot of MT2924 eventually had to make an unscheduled stop at the Canadian province of Winnipeg 1,600 miles away from Las Vegas so they could eject the unruly group. The aircraft had to dump 10,000kg of fuel as a result, and the remainder of 316 passengers on board had to wait almost three hours before the plane took off again to complete its journey.
As a result of the group’s antics, the airline were left with a bill of £29,182 – including the cost of paying for return flights back to the UK for five of the group.
The Brits were arrested when they arrived back in the UK.
The stag party appeared in Manchester Crown Court today (June 4), where Ward, and guests Scott Capper and Craig Hopwood were each jailed for two years after they admitted being drunk on an aircraft and affray.
Father of one Daniel Howarth was jailed for 19 months after he admitted being drunk on an aircraft and a public order offence.
Prosecutor David Lees said:
The defendants were all part of a stag party and were under the influence of alcohol from the start of the flight. They continued to drink their own alcohol during the flight despite being told not to do so and at the start of this flight the cabin manager had even made an announcement that it was illegal to be drunk on the Las Vegas flight due to previous issues with stag parties.
A number of bottles of spirits were confiscated from them and the group were rowdy offensive and fighting amongst themselves.
The court heard how one stewardess had speak to the group three times even before take off, and a passenger who tried to joke with them about their behaviour was told ‘f**k off you t**t’, before having his chair kicked.
The prosecutor went on:
On being told the flight would be diverted, one said ‘Let’s cause more trouble.’
One woman on the flight with with her husband said the stag group had been loud in the queue when they got on board and she could see they had been drinking. They were filling up bottles and staff refused to serve them with one stewardesses confiscating drink.
Their behaviour got worse and they were shouting appalling language across the plane. Ward was the worst behaved and pulled down the shorts of Hopwood who then pulled down his own pants. This was visible to everyone and he was smoking an e-cigarette which was confiscated. Ward and Hopwood even tried to lift the skirt of a stewardess and were throwing water at each other.
A third passenger heard one of the defendants shouting ‘I’ve got £300 of alcohol here.’ When warned the flight would be diverted the defendant shouted ‘I don’t care.’
Stewardess Chloe Chaloner said in a statement:
I saw fighting between the group and the throwing of water. They were mithering for drinks before take off and and when they were refused they caused trouble blocking the trolly as we went past. I confiscated 5 litres of alcohol and on my break one of them got up and sat opposite me staring constantly and saying: ‘I’m going to ruin your time like you’ve ruined ours.’
I found them intimidating and aggressive. Whenever one fell asleep the others would punch him hard and they would start fighting each other. When told we were landing one said they had a bomb in the bag.
Ward reportedly denied drinking on the aircraft and claimed not to recall bad language or fighting, while Hopwood denied exposing himself and claimed one stewardess had told Ward ‘who would marry you?’
Despite their denials, Judge Hilary Manley told all four men:
You caused your fellow passengers a great deal of upheaval and stress with some of them missing connecting flights. It is ironic you were flown home with tickets paid for by Thomas Cook and it may want to look at recouping some of the losses they incurred through the civil courts as a result of this shameful incident.
You were drunk before boarding the plane and none of you were in a fit state to be on an airplane. You did exactly as you wanted and you interrupted the safety demonstration with your boorish drunken behaviour – drinking rum, vodka and the like that you had bought from duty free. I have seen images of the bottles you drank from and there was little left.
The judge went on:
This was an 8am flight and you created a threatening and wholly unsafe situation. You were insulting to the crew and you used disgusting and obscene language – a group of large drunken men. An experienced crew said it was the worst behaviour she’s seen in more than 20 years of working. A single unruly drunk can be contained but this is no such case here.
You ignored all the warnings given to you and you caused fear to passengers and impacted the safety of the aircraft. You were still drinking and being abusive towards fellow passengers even as the plane was landing in Winnipeg. This is such a serious example of drunkenness on an aircraft.
You are all family men with people relying on you but the experience of a drunken group in the confined space of an aircraft for a long haul flight is a truly terrifying one. There needs to be a deterrent sentence to such behaviour.
As well as ruining the flight for everyone, the rowdy men ruined their own stag celebration and now have to serve time for it. I’m sure it wasn’t worth it.
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.