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Worst Passenger of the Week: “It Would Only Take One Guy to Take This Plane Down!”

Every Friday, FlyerTalk looks back at the week’s most charming individuals. While there are always plenty of contenders for our Worst Passenger of the Week award, only one lucky flyer can take home the glory. Here are this week’s winners.

Third Place – Cuba Libre versus Newark Liberty International

Police say that a passenger was arrested at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) for attempting to bring a loaded handgun on a flight on Monday. Ordinarily, this sort of incident would not merit Worst Passenger of the Week treatment. After all, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported intercepting 3,391 handguns at airport security checkpoints last year alone and most of those firearms were loaded. Maurice Harmon, however, was allegedly attempting to smuggle a loaded weapon onboard a flight headed for José Martí International Airport (HAV) in Havana, Cuba.

The 63-year-old Pennsylvania resident was reportedly trying to board his flight carrying a .9mm semiautomatic weapon loaded with hollow point bullets in his carry-on bag. Packing a handgun in a carry-on bag is a bad idea on any flight, but the Cuban government has, of course, been especially touchy about people from the US arriving in their country with firearms ever since the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1963.

Forget for a moment the ill-advised decision to bring a personal side-arm into a country with questionable legal protections for foreign visitors and set aside the serious federal penalties for attempting to smuggle a loaded weapon into the cabin of a passenger plane; the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey says that Harmon was charged with both the unlawful possession of a handgun and the unlawful possession of a high-capacity magazine. So, bottom line, it was illegal for this passenger to possess the firearm in question at all in New Jersey (even before he tried to bring the weapon on a flight to Cuba).

The Runner-up – Why Ouzo Crazy?

Witnesses say an unidentified passenger managed to quickly down an entire bottle of duty-free Ouzo before boarding his Ryanair flight from Sofia Airport (SOF) to London Stansted Airport (STN) on Tuesday. The fact that the well-lubricated traveler didn’t immediately curl up in a ball and become deathly ill might have made him a candidate for “Most Heroic Passenger of the Week” – if not for what happened next.

Passengers on the same flight as the Ouzo-sated flyer say he began acting out almost immediately. The man, described only as a 46-year-old from Bulgaria, allegedly began violently flailing his arms, attacking random passengers and most disturbingly of all, flinging his own blood at crew members and seat mates alike. The plane made an unscheduled stop at Blue Danube Airport Linz (LNZ) in Austria where the out-of-control-anisette-enthusiast was removed and arrested.

Local media reports described something akin to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, complete with passengers splattered in blood – all apparently originating from the aggressive flyer’s previously injured hand. The bleeding and somewhat agitated passenger was rushed to a hospital where his wounds could be treated before he was booked into custody.

The troublemaking passenger was said to have been remarkably cooperative when Austrian police arrived to escort him from the flight. The traveler even volunteered to police that he was headed to London to “take a stroll” – a plan that, while certainly well-intentioned, raises the distinct possibility that Ryanair fares may have gotten just a little too cheap.

The Winner – Attempt at Early Depart Causes Late Arrival

Unfortunately, this time the Worst Passenger of the Week may have terrified himself almost as much as those onboard his Air Canada flight from Sangster International Airport (MBJ) in Jamaica to Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ). Nonetheless, the passenger jet made an unscheduled stop at Orlando International Airport (MCO) where Brandon Michael Courneyea was arrested for his bizarre actions onboard the flight on Monday.

According to charging documents, the 33-year-old became a problem almost as soon as the plane was airborne. He reportedly kicked things off by throwing a wad of paper at a fellow passenger who was “looking at him.” After verbal alterations with several other travelers, Courneyea allegedly attempted to throw hot pots of coffee at passengers and crew. His tirade culminated in an attempt to open the rear door of the aircraft, reportedly assaulting a cabin crew member in the process. Flight attendants eventually managed to restrain the manic passenger with zip ties, until the captain could land at MCO.

Eyewitnesses on the plane, some of whom had previously tried to calm the agitated traveler, say he was issuing threats as he attempted to wrench the emergency exit door open. According to passengers on the flight, at one point, he loudly announced, “It would only take one guy to take this plane down!”

Courneyea’s wife says the first sign of trouble was when her husband called her from Jamaica to tell her that the locals were “trying to kill him.” She told reporters that she started to become concerned that his dream vacation was taking a bad turn and pleaded with her husband to take an earlier flight home.

“That is not my husband at all,” Amanda Courneyea insisted in a phone interview with the The Canadian Press. ”There’s a lot more to what brought that on, because my husband is the kindest, most loving man you’ll ever meet. And anybody that knows him will tell you the same thing.”

At last report, Courneyea hadn’t yet been allowed to speak with her spouse. His legal situation is complicated somewhat by the fact that he was arrested by US authorities.

Air Canada officials showed uncharacteristic restraint in condemning the errant passenger. Airline spokesperson Isabelle Arthur told The Globe and Mail only that opening the door of a passenger plane is “impossible to do during flight.”

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