Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Hefty fine for using phone on plane

File photo / Thinkstock
File photo / Thinkstock

A Dunedin man has been handed a hefty fine after getting drunk on a plane and having a lengthy natter on his phone as the aircraft came in to land.

The 23-year-old was "more than moderately intoxicated" as he travelled on Air New Zealand flight NZ679 from Auckland to Dunedin last night (EDS Monday), Senior Constable Brice Horner said.

The man was observed by other passengers having an extended conversation on his mobile phone as the flight approached Dunedin Airport. He claimed to have been playing games on the device, but that was not supported by witness accounts, Mr Horner said.

"But most importantly his phone was not in flight mode. It was operating throughout that period of time and therefore endangering the safety of the aircraft."

The pilot contacted police, who met the man at the airport and issued a $1100 infringement notice - $600 for becoming intoxicated on an aircraft and $500 for using a portable device.

"He was intoxicated but there are no reports that he was behaving in an objectionable or a violent manner," Mr Horner said.

"It would fall into the category of being an error of judgement due to his level of intoxication."

There were generally between one and 10 such cases each year - enough to be of concern to police.

"I think most people heed the warnings. They are quite clear and the cabin crew go to some effort to make them. I don't think it's a major problem but it is an important rule to follow and this is a timely reminder," Mr Horner said.

A Civil Aviation Authority spokesman said the authority was not requested to attend the incident.

He agreed that such incidents were not common but said it did happen occasionally.

Air New Zealand declined to comment.

According to the airline's website, modern aircraft are fitted with sensitive electronic equipment which can be affected by some types of electronic equipment carried by passengers.

- APNZ

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