Two Brits face the threat of being imprisoned in a U.S. jail for 20 years each after they pleaded guilty to interference with a member of flight crew during a chaotic flight from Cancun, Mexico to Manchester, England, last month that ended with the Captain making an emergency landing in Bangor, Maine.
Anthony Kirby and Damien Murphy, both 36 years old, also face the prospect of a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release following the January 2 incident that TUI Airways claims cost the airline more than $26,000 in costs and expenses due to the unscheduled landing at Bangor International Airport.
In an affidavit compiled by FBI investigators and filed in district court in Maine, it is alleged that Kirby and Murphy boarded the flight already drunk in Mexico before they started to curse other passengers with racial slurs during the flight.
Flight attendants told the investigators they used multiple de-escalation techniques without success before one crew member was pushed by Murphy, and an innocent bystander was attacked by Kirby in what was described as an “unprovoked attack”.
As Kirby’s and Murphy’s behaviour got worse, one of the flight attendant’s told investigators that the entire passenger cabin “erupted in chaos” and other passengers were being ‘incited’ with rows of passengers out of their seats and screaming in each other’s faces.
The drama unfolded aboard TUI Airways flight TOM-193 which was operating a scheduled service from Cancun to Manchester on January 2 with 328 passengers onboard.
Flight attendants noticed that Kirby and Murphy were already drunk when they boarded the plane but they were allowed to fly under the condition they wouldn’t be served any more alcohol.
After departure, however, the men became increasingly “loud and disruptive” and started to direct racist slurs at an African American passenger sitting nearby, as well as at flight attendants onboard.
Kirby and Murphy allegedly “shoved” the lead flight attendant when she tried to get them to calm down and Murphy told her to “get the f**k out the way” before he grabbed a large bottle of Duty-Free gin from his hand luggage and started to drink it, alongside Kirby.
The situation deteriorated so badly that the lead flight attendant feared he was “losing control of the passengers”.
The Captain made several announcements over the public address system in an attempt to get the passengers to calm down and obey the instructions of the flight attendants, who were, by this point, described as “terrified” at what was happening in the cabin.
With the aircraft approaching the Atlantic Ocean, the Captain made the decision to perform an emergency diversion to Bangor (one of the last diversion points before reaching the Atlantic) so that the men could be removed and calm restored onboard.
On Thursday, Kirby and Murphy pleaded guilty to interference with a flight crew and assault. In addition to the possible ‘interference’ sentence, the two men also face a maximum one-year jail term for assault and a $100,000 fine.
The men will be sentenced after a report has been completed by the U.S. Probation Office. In the meantime, Kirby and Murphy have been remanded into the custody of the U.S. Marshal’s Service.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.