The Norwegian airline with 249 passengers and 13 crew was en route to Fort Lauderdale, Miami, when Jody Bochner, aged 26, became out of control and had to be handcuffed.
Bochner with address at 3991 5th West 129 Avenue, Miami, had bought a litre of vodka before getting on board and was drinking it from a cola bottle.
Insp Tom Kennedy told Limerick District Court yesterday that the flight left Gatwick at 4pm on Tuesday and was cruising south of Cork when Bochner began to cause problems.
He set off toilet alarms after using an e-cigarette. He became aggressive, abusive and tried to hit a crew member.
Diverting the plane led to the loss of 20 tonnes of fuel at a cost of €20,000. The plane also had to refuel and with the further costs of slots lost at Fort Lauderdale, the inspector said the total loss to the airline was €100,000.
Garda Karen Walsh said 40 minutes into the flight from Gatwick, crew were alerted to an alarm going off in a toilet where Bochner was using an e-cigarette.
He was returned to his seat but 20 minutes later, passengers complained about Bochner’s behaviour. He was shouting abuse and banging on the seat in front of him.
He became more aggressive and at one point tried to strike a crew member.
It emerged that passengers saw Bochner continually sipping from a cola bottle which he had topped up from a litre of vodka he had purchase before getting on board. At Shannon Garda station, Garda Walsh said the accused was very aggressive and abusive but, after a night in a cell, he was a totally different man.
Stiofan Fitzpatrick, solicitor, said Bochner had travelled to the UK to meet his girlfriend. He had taken drink to get some sleep on the flight.
“He has no recollection of what happened and is extremely embarrassed and now a very chastened man this morning after spending a night in a cold cell.
“He realises the seriousness of the matter and is anxious to get back to Miami where he resides with his elderly grandparents aged 84 and 94,” the solicitor added.
Judge Aeneas McCarthy said any loss incurred by the airline would be a matter for another court. He fined Bochner €1,000 for air rage (breach of the Air Navigation Transport Act 1973) and gave him 28 days to pay. In default, Bochner faces 20 days in prison.