Published: 15:50, 09 May 2017 |
Updated: 15:52, 09 May 2017
A drunk and abusive couple who almost forced a plane to divert have avoided jail.
Antony Grant, 27, from Sevenoaks, and his girlfriend Carola Conti, 26, swore at passengers, banged chairs, spilled drinks and argued with cabin crew on the 13 hour flight from Kuala Lumpur to London when they were asked to be quiet.
Conti even threatened to open the aircraft's doors in mid-air if she wasn't served more alcohol.
The pair were arrested when Malaysian Airlines flight MH02 landed at 11.30pm and claimed they weren't drunk.
They both admitted one count of entering an aircraft, which has a capacity of 494 passengers, while drunk and one count of behaving in a threatening and abusive manner towards a member of cabin staff on March 7.
Both Conti and Grant had been travelling in Cambodia but stayed nearly twice as long as they intended after he was bitten by a poisonous spider and needed hospital treatment.
Conti had taken Valium on the flight for anxiety and both took diazepam before boarding to help them sleep, on the advice of a Malaysian pharmacist.
At Isleworth Crown Court today, Grant, wearing a dark grey suit, white shirt and blue tie, sat in the dock alongside Conti, dressed in a dark jacket, trousers and thick rimmed glasses.
"They were so disruptive other passengers were getting involved and the crew were so concerned that as the safety of the passengers and the aircraft is my primary concern, I believed in the set of circumstances I needed to divert the aircraft" - Pilot Nik Majid
"Particularly Miss Conti was upset at the fact the screen in front of her was not working and clearly disturbing the passenger in front of her as she banged the seat.
"Some passengers tried to move away from the defendants, the crew were called and they asked for more drinks from the crew member.
"The crew warned them about their drinking and that they needed to stop and allowed them to have one more drink.
"The crew then received further abuse from both Grant and Conti.
"They both began to become argumentative between themselves, the other passengers and crew."
Pilot Nik Majid, who had worked with Malaysia Airlines for 37 years, said he nearly had to divert the plane because of the disruption.
In a statement he said: "Around four hours into the flight I received a call from the crew saying there were two disruptive passengers at the back of the aircraft.
"They were so disruptive other passengers were getting involved and the crew were so concerned that as the safety of the passengers and the aircraft is my primary concern, I believed in the set of circumstances I needed to divert the aircraft.
"This request was granted and this information was relayed to the passengers as a final warning.
"Fortunately the passengers had calmed down and fallen asleep.
"In my 37 years of being a pilot this is the first time I have ever considered diverting the aircraft."
Fellow passenger Philippa Drinkwater who was sitting next to the couple in the aisle seat, said Conti demanded more booze from staff and threatened to open the emergency exit if she was not given alcohol.
"You behaved in an abusive and threatening manner. As a result of your behaviour your fellow travellers around you experienced a very unpleasant flight" - Judge Ferris
"I found the volatile behaviour of Miss Conti unacceptable and asked to be moved away from them."
The court heard the couple had been travelling for 30 hours straight from Koh Chang in Thailand to Bangkok, then got three hours sleep before leaving for Kuala Lumpur and waiting nine hours for their flight to the UK.
Natasha Wong, defending, claimed Conti took steroids she bought in a Cambodian pharmacy to cope with her condition, known as hydroxylase deficiency, which causes excess testosterone to be produced.
She said: "Both defendants are extremely sorry for their inexcusable behaviour.
"Miss Conti took these steroids because she believed they would help her condition. Who knows what she was really taking.
"Mr Grant was trying to smooth the situation."
Judge Jonathan Ferris said: "It's very unpleasant for passengers on a potentially 13 hour flight to be next to drunk and aggressive, possibly dangerous, passengers.
"Miss Conti is smiling, she may not regard herself dangerous, but believing she may open the emergency door, people who may suffer from the same anxieties as you may find the experience frightening - it is extremely unattractive.
"She knew she had that condition and should not have got drunk before a flight.
"They were drunk before they got on the plane and continued to drink on it, then were abusive to passengers and staff."
Judge Ferris, addressing the defendants, added: "You behaved in an abusive and threatening manner.
"As a result of your behaviour your fellow travellers around you experienced a very unpleasant flight.
"The pilot was so concerned he considered diverting the plane. There's no excuse for this behaviour.
"Miss Conti, your behaviour was much worse as you threatened to open the emergency door if you didn't receive more alcohol."
Conti, of Hove, East Sussex, was ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work and pay £530 in costs.
Grant will have to do 150 hours unpaid work and pay £530 costs.
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