A number of media outlets have reported the news that an off-duty Emirati pilot has been arrested after allegedly becoming disruptive and assaulting a member of cabin crew onboard an Emirates flight between Madrid to Dubai. The news first broke a couple of days ago although the incident is believed to have happened in June.
According to the Gulf News, an Abu Dhabi-based newspaper, the pilot appeared in a Dubai court on Wednesday where details of the allegations first emerged. Amongst other things, prosecutors have charged the pilot with being drunk on an aircraft, behaving rowdily, threatening the safety of the aircraft and its passengers and threatening to blow up the plane.
According to witness statements, the off-duty pilot’s behaviour became so bad that cabin crew were forced to restrain him using cable ties. Apparently, the pilot first started acting disruptively when he first boarded the plane in Madrid – shouting, swearing and asking a female member of crew whether he could smoke onboard.
It’s alleged the 27-year old, Emirati national pilot took two cans of beer without permission and then consumed even more alcohol. The crew member says the pilot swore at her and then physically assaulted her by punching her in the chest.
“He seemed to be acting abnormally … he asked me if smoking was allowed, and when I responded negatively, he emphasised that he was aware because he was a pilot,” the crew member reportedly told the court.
“A few hours after take-off, he started acting rowdily. He ran towards the aircraft’s kitchen, took two beers without permission … he disturbed the passengers’ comfort, shouted, and cursed.”
It’s not clear why the plane was allowed to take off with the pilot still onboard but once airborne his behaviour became even more erratic. Cabin crew managed to restrain him but he became even more aggressive – at one point, he smashed his head against the seat-back television in front of him and kicked a window.
Prosecutors estimate the value of damage to the in-flight entertainment system and window be in excess of 10,000 Dirhams (approximately $2,700 USD). The pilot continued to shout and swear at both crew and passengers. He has further been charged with threatening to kill cabin crew and also faces charges that he made threats to blow the aircraft up.
The case has apparently been adjourned so the defendant can hire a lawyer. A spokesperson for the airline said of the incident:
“Emirates can confirm that on June 1, 2018, an incident occurred during flight EK144 from Madrid to Dubai, whereby an unruly passenger was restrained by cabin crew.”
The statement continued: “The passenger was met by authorities in Dubai on arrival. The safety of our passengers and crew is of critical importance and will not be compromised. The matter is now before the courts, and Emirates cannot comment further on the incident.”
Clearly, this was an incredibly distressing case for everyone involved. According to testimony from the cabin crew member, one passenger was “petrified” while another passenger had to help crew restrain the off-duty pilot.
It’s not known whether there are any mitigating factors such as mental health issues involved. We’ve been told by a reliable source that the pilot involved in this incident doesn’t work for Emirates although its unclear what airline, if any, the man does work work for.
In the past, we’ve heard of rumours of Emirates’ own pilots becoming involved in an in-flight fracas although this case is unusual in that so many details have been made publicly available by the Dubai authorities.