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I'd rather
3rd Apr 2001, 12:51
From today's Standard:

Jet turns back as woman 'goes berserk'

by Martin McGlown
A 73-year-old Frenchwoman caused a packed jumbo jet bound for London to turn back to Hong Kong after she went "berserk" three hours into the flight, it emerged today.

Fellow passengers in the Upper Class section of the Virgin Atlantic Airbus 340 watched in amazement as the pensioner, who had been drinking heavily, allegedly threw water around the cabin, tried to punch her husband and screamed at stewardesses.

She had earlier fallen over in a toilet and sustained a head injury.

The woman, who has not been named, was eventually calmed down and examined by a doctor. Moments later, the captain announced that the plane was returning to Hong Kong because a passenger had been "taken ill".

On touchdown, the 5ft 1in woman, who had dyed ginger hair and wore leather trousers, was led from the runway by paramedics and police, but was not arrested.

She was later seen wandering around the lobby of the same hotel where the 220-plus other passengers were accommodated overnight at Virgin's expense.

The following day she was back on another Virgin flight to Heathrow, though it was a separate one from the other customers, some of whom had paid more than 4,000 for their tickets and are now seeking compensation.

Chas Roy-Chowdhury, head of taxation with the London-based Association of Chartered Accountants, witnessed the drama on Friday.

He said: "She was highly volatile and drunk. You might expect such behaviour from a football hooligan, not a little old lady.

"People on board were concerned for their safety because no one was making any effort to restrain her.

"She was shouting from the moment the flight departed and became increasingly aggressive. She fluctuated between French and English and at one point screamed at the stewardesses, saying: 'Are you crazy?'

"Two-and-a-half hours into the flight, she stood up and took a swing at her husband. She missed and tumbled into the side of the plane, letting out a massive shriek."

Mr Roy-Chowdhury, 44, from Bishop's Stortford, Herts, said the captain announced his decision to divert while over Siberia.

"When we returned to Hong Kong we were put up in a hotel overnight. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the same old lady walking around in the hotel, seemingly oblivious to the trouble she had caused. The following day, as I was waiting in the Upper Class departure lounge for the rescheduled flight, I again saw her sitting around. I found out that she was booked on another plane departing 30 minutes later.

"I am furious with Virgin's handling of this situation which caused massive inconvenience to so many passengers."

A spokesman for Virgin Atlantic said: "The decision to divert was taken on medical advice. What happened after that is under investigation.

"If we perceive passengers to be visibly under the influence of alcohol on boarding, we do not let them on our planes. In this case, it must not have been evident to the ground crew that the woman was drunk. The fact that she was not arrested is a matter for the Hong Kong police."

The original flight had been due to touch down at London Heathrow at 5.55am on Saturday. The rescheduled flight did not arrive until Sunday morning. "

Now, assuming for the moment that this incident has been accurately reported (!), does it seem that Virgin may have overreacted? According to the report, the woman had calmed down by the time the aircraft was turned around, and surely she could have been fairly easily restrained if trouble had started again. The suggestion that they turned around because of being concerned about her health doesn't seem to add up; if she were really ill, presumably it would have been quicker/preferable to land elsewhere? What do you guys think?

COWPAT
3rd Apr 2001, 13:10
If this is a true and complete version of events then it has been mishandled from start to finish. Assuming said lady was drunk rather than ill
1) Restrain her
2) Continue to LHR
3) Depending on how abusive she was, have
her arrested on arrival

SKYDRIFTER
3rd Apr 2001, 15:44
AHA!

Now that profits have been adversley affected, maybe somebody will do something about sky-rage.

VivaTheBeaver
3rd Apr 2001, 17:12
I think that turning back was the only option in the circumstances. As the report says the woman sustained a head injury and was also seen by a Doctor on board. Regardless of the state on intoxication of the woman, the fact she may have injured her head in a fall could have proven more serious later if the flight had continued. I’m sure that any Doctor would recommend further investigation as soon as possible and that no Airline Captain would want to risk carrying, potentially a seriously ill patient. Imagine what the press would have said if the aircraft continued and the woman died. Best to be cautious don’t you think.

cb747
3rd Apr 2001, 17:38
As they were 3 hours in to the flight would there be anywhere else they could go in the area ?

JJflyer
3rd Apr 2001, 17:44
I like the upperdeck of the A340. It is very comfortable for the regular business traveller :)

Thats what I have been telling for years: Watch out for little ole ladies and fly into chemtrails... Wonder if this was the case or if she was a regular boozehoudess.

JJ

I'd rather
3rd Apr 2001, 17:49
That was one of the things that occurred to me. The article says they were over Siberia at the time, but presumably they could have got somewhere else in less time (if her injury was giving cause for concern) than flying back to HK for 3 hours.

But then, I'm not aware of what operational difficulties that would cause, which is why I asked the question.

COWPAT
3rd Apr 2001, 18:08
Certainly agree that you can't ignore medical advice, but if the injury was effectivley self inflicted thru alcohol then she should be held liable for the cost of the diversion and any compensation claim from other pax. Hard rules I know but you either make a stand or you get rolled over, no middle ground here I,m afraid.

Roadtrip
3rd Apr 2001, 19:04
And they let her on a second Virgin flight later on??? Good Lord. Remind me to never fly on Virgin. Sounds like they care more about drunk crazies than loyal passengers.
Unbelievable, if true.