A few drinks on board a United Airlines flight bound for Tokyo has cost one passenger more than $70,000, after he became disorderly and threatened to kill a flight attendant.
Seksan Kumtong – who is now 52 – had been acting strangely since boarding a United Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Narita, Japan, last February.
According to Brenden Ryan, an FBI special agent in Anchorage, wrote in an affidavit supporting a criminal complaint, Kumtong reportedly began acting up shortly after takeoff from LAX, when a crew member observed him "banging on the airport bathroom doors".
The flight attendant tried to direct Kumtong to a different rest room, at which point he attempted – but failed – to shove the crew member, according to an Anchorage Daily News article published last February.
According to Fox News, Kumtong eventually returned to his seat and fell asleep after being denied any more alcohol.
When he woke, he ordered more alcoholic beverages, but was denied. He then began swearing loudly before striking a flight attendant in the face, and attempting to take the crew member to the floor of the aircraft.
At one point, Kumtong also yelled, "I will kill you," according to an FBI affidavit.
Crew members and passengers rushed to restrain the disruptive traveller before the flight was diverted to Anchorage, Alaska.
"The flight landed safely and was met by local officials," United wrote in a statement issued last February, in which they referred to Kumtong as a "disruptive passenger".
Fellow passengers were provided with vouchers for meals on arrival to Anchorage and hotel stays to the aeroplane staff and 214 passengers on board, according to a sentencing document. The cost of the diversion was $69,100.
Prior to Tuesday's sentencing, Kumtong – from North Hollywood, California – had pleaded guilty to interfering with the flight crew.
Kumtong's lawyer said his client had suffered from uncontrolled diabetes for years. His medical condition combined with alcohol consumption led to "severe hypoglycaemia and consequent combativeness," the lawyer said.
He said the reaction, in this case, was not an excuse but does partially explain why he acted so violently.