Two Brits have avoided lengthy jail terms in a U.S. prison after they pleaded guilty to interfering with flight attendants on a TUI Airways flight from Cancun in Mexico to Manchester, England.
Joseph James Kirby, 36, and Damien Jake Murphy, 36, had both faced a possible jail term of 20 years plus a $250,000 fine, but on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Lance E. Walker sentenced the two men to time served following their arrest on January 2.
Kirby and Murphy have spent the last two and a half months in prison while on remand, awaiting the conclusion of the case. Both men were also ordered to pay $26,589 each in restitution.
Prosecutors alleged that Kirby and Murphy were already drunk when they boarded the TUI Airways flight in Mexico but flight attendants allowed them aboard on the condition that they wouldn’t be served any more alcohol.
Once in the air, however, Kirby and Murphy demanded more alcohol before one of them grabbed a bottle of Duty Free gin from their hand luggage.
An FBI affidavit described how Kirby and Murphy became increasingly “loud and disruptive” and started to direct racist slurs at an African American passenger sitting nearby. Flight attendants were also allegedly subjected to abuse and slurs.
At one point, the men allegedly shoved the lead flight attendant and picked a fight with another passenger. One of the flight attendants told investigators she was left “terrified” by Kirby and Murphy’s behaviour and another crew member said they feared they were losing control of the entire cabin.
The pilots diverted to one of the last available airports before the aircraft reached the Atlantic Ocean, making an unscheduled stop at Bangor International Airport, where law enforcement removed Kirby and Murphy.
TUI Airways claims the diversion cost it more than $26,000 in costs and expenses.
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.