Belfast Telegraph

I was not acting up on flight, air rage accused tells court

By Michael McHugh

An American accused of endangering an aircraft has said he was left "high and dry" after a flight attendant refused to give him a second portion of crackers.

Jeremiah Mathis Thede (42) denied behaving aggressively towards cabin crew during a United Airlines 11-hour flight from Rome to Chicago last June, and blamed them for acting evasively.

The plane diverted to Belfast.

He was given one snack - two crackers and a small piece of cheese - which did not fill him, and he was refused when he approached flight attendant Lisa Hall to ask for more. He said: "In all my experience of flying I have not heard that policy before. Any time I requested snacks they asked me how many I wanted and they gave me as many as I wanted complimentary, so I was questioning the policy she had just quoted."

He said it was not a heated conversation and he did not point in the attendant's face or swear at her. The defendant, from Berkeley, California, claimed Ms Hall refused to give him her name and was "evasive". He said she then left his area. "She kind of left me sort of high and dry," he said.

He added he did not chase Ms Hall down the aisle and denied brandishing a pen and paper when asking for her name.

He said that because he was hungry and could not sleep he had used part of the flight to write up the contact details of acquaintances he had made on his travels.

That entailed opening the overhead luggage bins to check through various pieces of baggage, he told Antrim Crown Court.

He was lightly dressed because it was hot in Rome and he put on another layer when the cabin became relatively cold. Senior cabin crew member Sheila Wire has said his actions escalated matters and claimed she was approached by concerned passengers.

She approached his seat with a man Mr Thede assumed was an air marshal, although Ms Wire has denied this.

The accused said: "I would characterise it as a warning, although I did not know what for. I would characterise it as sort of a chastisement."

He said it seemed to be an issue of compliance: "I had presented to her that I had an issue. Instead of making an inquiry about my issue she took the position that I was, by her estimation, not behaving appropriately. I did not want to exacerbate the situation so I did not comment."

The hearing continues.

Belfast Telegraph

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