A veterinary nurse has avoided jail despite being branded ‘every passenger’s worst nightmare,’ by downing so much vodka she turned abusive and could barely speak on a Thomas Cook flight.
Katherine Heyes, 29, drank an entire bottle of duty free vodka, with the help of two friends, before jetting off on an all-girls holiday to Turkey from Manchester in May last year.
During the Thomas Cook flight from Manchester to the Turkish resort city of Antalya, Heyes became abusive towards crew and passengers and got involved in altercation in which a fellow traveller suffered a scratch to her face.
Katherine Heyes, pictured outside Minshull Street Crown Court today, was handed a 12-month community order after she admitted to being drunk on an aircraft
The pilot considered diverting the plane but it landed at its destination and police were waiting to escort Heyes and her friends away.She later claimed she got drunk as she was nervous about flying.
At Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester, Heyes, from Tyldesley, Wigan, faced up to two years jail after she admitted being drunk on an aircraft.
But she was given a 12 month community order after her lawyer said she faced being struck off if she went to prison and had been subject to public vilification over her behaviour.She was also ordered to pay £250 costs.
Sentencing Judge John Edwards told Heyes: ‘You were every passenger’s worst nightmare on that day.
‘There has to be a maintenance of good order on an aeroplane where passengers and flight attendants are cocooned in a confined space from which there is no escape.
‘Your behaviour was not only deeply unpleasant and distressing for anyone who has to suffer it but also has the potential to cause complete havoc and endanger safety.’You were in your own words ‘out of it’ and you should be ashamed.’
The veterinary nurse’s defence solicitor warned she faced being struck off if she had been jailed
At an earlier hearing prosecutor Miss Eileen Rogers said: ‘Following take-off a member of cabin crew noticed the friends going to the toilet both together and going in there with a large bag with them and it appeared they were drinking their own alcohol aboard the plane.
‘They had a large bag with them in such a small space and one of the cabin crew had seen some alcohol.Later the meals were served and the cabin crew found an empty bottle of blue vodka where the group were sitting.
‘Details were taken from all the ladies and the alcohol bottle was removed and advice was given not to consume alcohol on board the aircraft.But cabin crew noticed the ladies appeared to be under the influence of alcohol – in particular Miss Heyes.
‘She was slurring her words so much it was difficult to understand what she was saying when she was responding to the cabin crew member.
Staff on board the Thomas Cook flight from Manchester to Turkey say bad behaviour lasted ‘for most of the flight’ after Heyes drunk a bottle of vodka with two other women last May
‘Passengers within the area began using their call buttons to get the crews attention at the response to the lady causing a disturbance in the row.
‘They all noticed she was intoxicated and all were concerned about her welfare.She seemed to be swearing and pointing her finger in an aggressive way. Many passengers were prompted to use the buttons to voice their concerns about the behaviour.
‘A cabin crew member went to approach in relation to that but it caused another altercation with the others with her trying to calm her down and one was left with a scratch to her face.She then started again swearing and shouting again whilst being restrained by her friends and they told her to calm down.
‘A senior cabin crew member spoke to her again and were keeping a close eye on her but many passengers wanted the flight to be diverted.But after speaking to the captain and learning they were 40 minutes away from landing, a decision was taken for the aircraft to proceed to the destination. Police met the aircraft and all parties were escorted off. ‘
Miss Rogers added: ‘It was a worrying time for people on the aircraft travelling all looking to see what’s going on and there was a considerable amount of disturbance and noise coming from Miss Heyes.They wanted the aircraft to be diverted and Miss Heyes to be removed from the aircraft. The bad behaviour lasted for most of the flight. ‘
Heyes was escorted away as the plane landed in Antalya Escort, Turkey in May last year
In a statement crew member Donna Smith said: ‘I noticed a lady being very drunk on the aircraft and causing a disturbance and swearing.She was obviously drunk and eight of 10 on the intoxication level. I had never had to contemplate diverting an aircraft and restraining somebody this was extreme when all control had been lost.
‘I did become chaotic on this flight due to the acts of Katherine and all of her group.There were no thoughts and consideration of the effects they were having to all other passengers on board.
‘I am trained to deal with confrontation and difficult passengers but nothing prepares you or is as upsetting to see this.All the cabin members were very disturbed on the flight. They were upset and concerned for the safety of themselves and clearly effected everybody on board.’
A fellow passenger said: ‘This was without doubt the worst ever experience I have had on a flight.My eldest child was traumatised by what happened and it affected the holiday as we were worried this woman might be on the return flight home and we wouldn’t be able to relax.’
In mitigation for Heyes’s counsel Miss Rachel Shenton said: ‘She is not a heavy drinker, rarely travels, doesn’t fly that often and doesn’t consume spirits.This represented something of a perfect storm and it is set against an acceptance that the impact of taking alcohol in the air is very different to that on the ground.
‘She doesn’t recall being quite as intoxicated as described – although it is not suggested this was anything other than extremely unpleasant for those on that aircraft.
‘She has been through the mill due to this case and has lost some of the friendships with those she was on board with that day.
‘There could also be an impact on her career.It took her three years to qualify via an apprenticeship and there is some confusion as to where she could be automatically struck off. The nature of the sentence might have an impact on that.’