Drunken mid-air rant leads to ban

By Jimmy Ellingham

Wellington man kept up foul abuse for whole flight
Cabin crew, assisted by willing passengers, restrained the intoxicated defendant by placing handcuffs on him. Photo / iStock
Cabin crew, assisted by willing passengers, restrained the intoxicated defendant by placing handcuffs on him. Photo / iStock

A Wellington man's boozy antics on a transtasman flight resulted in him being banned from Qantas flights for five years, a Wellington court was told as he came up for sentencing yesterday.

Brendan Mathew Hetherington took the flight from Sydney to Wellington in September.

A court summary said Hetherington "became grossly intoxicated".

When a warning light appeared for passengers to return to their normal seats, Hetherington did not follow the advice and became "disruptive".

"He refused to return to his assigned seat and began yelling abuse at cabin crew and fellow passengers."

Even after he returned to his seat, Hetherington's foul-mouthed tirade continued and the whole plane could hear him.

The Qantas crew politely asked him to calm down, but Hetherington ignored them. The captain ordered him to be restrained.

"Cabin crew, assisted by willing passengers, restrained the intoxicated defendant by placing handcuffs on," the summary says.

"He remained in his seat, overseen by crew and assisting passengers.

"He continued to verbally abuse one of the passengers caring for him throughout the trip."

Police waited for Hetherington at Wellington Airport and took him into custody.

He told them he couldn't remember what happened.

"Once sober, he was very apologetic."

In the Wellington District Court yesterday, Hetherington admitted a charge of offensive behaviour.

He was sentenced to nine months' supervision, including alcohol and drug counselling if ordered to.

A charge laid under the Civil Aviation Act was dropped, as the Civil Aviation Authority had already fined Hetherington $1100.

He had also been banned from Qantas flights for five years, the court heard.

"When someone is that far above the ground with that number of people on board it's very difficult and dangerous to be grossly intoxicated on board and difficult for staff to handle," Judge Barbara Morris said.

"I'm sure that the sober you is remorseful for what occurred," the judge told Hetherington.

Defence lawyer John Miller said Hetherington had been on medication for depression that did not mix with alcohol, and had been through a "traumatic" family separation.

Considering the fine and the Qantas ban, he had already been "well and truly punished".

Outside court, Hetherington said he was remorseful for what happened.

"It was just a really stupid mistake."

- NZ Herald

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