Sun | Mar 7, 2021

Sangster flight grounded after trash-talking family row

Published:Monday | January 18, 2021 | 12:17 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer
Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay.
Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay.


A Canadian cabin crew refused to fly a group of unruly passengers from MBJ’s Sangster International Airport to Pearson International in Toronto on Sunday after they were threatened and called “white trash”.

The crew, working the low-cost carrier Swoop, which is owned by WestJet, reportedly became fearful after an altercation between a white family of five and a black couple stalled the take-off of the flight, scheduled to depart at 11:55 a.m. An hour later, the plane was still in the holding area of the ramp.

Local handlers of the aircraft, AJAS Jamaica Limited, confirmed the incident, stating that the black couple, who were reportedly sitting in front of the white family, claimed that the kids started kicking their seats.

The black couple felt that the parents did not do enough to rein in their kids, which resulted in the intervention of the flight attendants. However, the situation escalated and racial slurs were reportedly hurled at them.

“The crew became fearful after they were called white trash and they were threatened,” Michelle James, coordinator in charge of customer service at AJAS, told The Gleaner.

She said the crew decided that all 131 passengers had to disembark the aircraft, but they objected. The police were summoned and the passengers ordered to deboard as the crew decided not to work the flight.

The passengers are being accommodated at the S Hotel by the airline and are booked to leave the island on Monday at 6 p.m. on a different aircraft and with a different crew. The group of seven are not expected to be accommodated on the aircraft.

Station manager Dunstan Pryce expressed disappointment with the behaviour of the passengers, acknowledging that rows were a challenge that occasionally arose.

“We will, however, at all times, take care of our passengers,” he promised.

The passengers are fortunate to be making it out before the travel amnesty that allows international travellers to enter Canada without presenting a negative COVID-19 test ends at midnight on Monday.

As of Tuesday, all travellers entering the North American country must present a negative coronavirus test no older than 72 hours in order to enter.

Just last week, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that it was stepping up enforcement against unruly airline passengers.

The FAA cited “a disturbing increase in incidents where airline passengers have disrupted flights with threatening or violent behaviour, The Associated Press reported.

The FAA said under an order signed by Administrator Stephen Dickson, unruly passengers will no longer get warnings. Instead, the agency said, disorderly passengers could be fined up to US$35,000. Offenders who assault or threaten airline crews or other passengers may face jail time.