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Worst Passenger of the Week: A Dangerous Precedent  

Worst Passenger of the Week: A Dangerous Precedent  
Jeff Edwards

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 column, only one lucky flyer can take home the glory.

Honorable Mention – Vegemite Unrest Continues  

If recent media reports are any indication, the number one issue facing air travelers in Australia is Vegemite-related rip-offs. Just a few weeks ago, a passenger at Sydney Airport (SYD) sparked nationwide outrage after complaining that a vendor at the airport was skimping on Vegemite toast serving size. Now, yet another air traveler has created a firestorm after alerting the press to another Vegemite scandal at the airport. 

According to headlines, retail outlets in the terminal are selling the alleged foodstuff for $19 per jar – a clear case of gouging travelers, considering that the exact same jar sells for less than $8 at a nearby grocery. Of course, many would argue that selling the sickly black substance made of brewer’s yeast and fermented vegetable matter at any price constitutes consumer mistreatment.

Lost in the nattering over the excessive Vegemite mark-ups is a real scandal – it appears that some passengers are prepared to pay an arguably high price to transport this pungent product across international borders. Worse yet, it seems as if the rest of the world is powerless to stop them.

Third Place – Top Gun Hidden DVD Easter Egg

A passenger this week at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) was apparently unaware that security checkpoint screeners have access to X-ray machines. According to the TSA, an unnamed passenger went to great lengths to conceal a handgun prior to his Mexico-bound flight.

The passenger is accused of carefully wrapping the weapon in aluminum foil, before hiding it inside of a DVD player, which was then placed inside a checked bag. His efforts were for naught, however, as the bag with the gun almost immediately triggered alarms. After taking a closer look at the bag in question, screeners soon discovered the freshness-sealed 9mm firearm.

The air traveler linked to the bag was quickly tracked down by Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police. He was arrested at the gate prior to boarding his international flight and now faces a slew of weapons-related charges. 

The TSA may have actually done this amateur gunrunner a favor. In most cases, Mexico has much, much harsher penalties for illegal firearm possession. This particular passenger may have been fortunate to have been arrested north of the border rather than at his destination.

The Runner-up – The Not-so-Great Escape 

There are few places where it is harder to escape someone else’s seriously creepy behavior than on a passenger plane where strangers are crowded into a giant metal tube with no escape. Fortunately, it is also very difficult for inflight offenders to leave the scene of their crimes before the police arrive. This, however, didn’t stop one Worst Passenger of the Week nominee from trying his best to escape justice.

After the oddly behaving passenger allegedly sprayed fellow flyers with an “unknown liquid” during an American Airlines flight this week from Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport (MSP) to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), the captain quite sensibly asked police to meet the aircraft when it arrived at the gate. The suspect, however, opted to make a run for it in a most surprising manner.

“While waiting for the door to the jet way to open, the man opened the service door on the opposite side of the aircraft and jumped out,” a Phoenix Police Department spokesperson told reporters. “He landed on the ground approximately 10 feet below, sustaining minor injuries. Workers at the airport stopped the man and he was taken into custody by Phoenix Police officers without incident. He was transported to a local hospital to be treated for his injuries.” 

Although his flight from justice came to an abrupt end, the suspect’s dramatic escape attempt may have earned him a reprieve of sorts – all of his alleged victims on the flight (apparently deciding he had already suffered enough) declined to press charges. 

The Winner – A Legal Loophole Big Enough to Fly a Jumbo Jet Through 

This Worst Passenger of the Week not only admitted to leaving a fellow passenger with a bloody nose following an inflight altercation, but she may have also just helped to set a legal precedent that could make it nearly impossible to prosecute future misbehaving air travelers. Monique Lozoya was convicted of assault for her part in the incident which occurred during a 2015 flight from Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport (MSP) to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), but this week the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco overturned that conviction on the thinnest of technicalities. 

In a 2-1 decision, the court ruled that because the assault occurred on a cross-country flight, the case should have been heard in the jurisdiction where the incident occurred (possibly somewhere over the Dakotas) rather than being tried in a Los Angeles federal courtroom. In the opinion, the panel ruled that there is a constitutional requirement that all crimes be prosecuted “in the state where the said crimes shall have been committed.” 

Previously, courts have ruled that because of laws governing interstate commerce, crimes in the air could be prosecuted where the aircraft lands. In this case, the majority opinion held that the midair assault “had nothing to do with interstate commerce” and therefore needed to be heard in a different jurisdiction because the incident occurred in “the navigable airspace above [that] district.”

In his opinion, the lone dissenting judge blasted the decision. “Limiting venue to a ‘flyover state,’ where the defendant and potential witnesses have no ties, makes no sense,” Judge John Owens wrote. He also expressed concern that the ruling would make it difficult to prosecute cases of sexual assault or violence in cases where it might be difficult to determine exactly where along the air journey the crime occurred.

[Image Source: Getty]

View Comments (2)

2 Comments

  1. mfan

    April 19, 2019 at 5:13 pm

    Brilliantly idiotic! What happens if someone was assaulted while flying over international water, like over the Pacific?

  2. zarkov505

    April 22, 2019 at 12:12 pm

    The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals strikes again!

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