A woman who tried to open the door of a passenger plane midway through a flight while yelling “I’m going to kill you all” has been jailed for two years.
Passengers and cabin crew fought to restrain Chloe Haines, and two RAF fighter jets were scrambled to escort the plane back to Stansted Airport, Chelmsford Crown Court heard.
She later said she “blacked out and didn’t really remember what happened” after mixing alcohol with medication, said prosecutor Michael Crimp.
The 26-year-old defendant, of High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to endangering the safety of an aircraft and assaulting cabin crew member Charley Coombe on the Jet2 flight to Dalaman in Turkey on June 22 last year.
Ms Coombe suffered scratches as she tried to prevent Haines from opening the plane door.
Judge Charles Gratwicke, sentencing Haines on Wednesday, said: “Those that are trapped in the confined space of the aircraft will inevitably be distressed, frightened and petrified by the actions of those who in a drunken state endanger their lives.
“For some it will be their worst nightmare come true.”
Haines, dressed in a white shirt and black top, with her blonde hair in a ponytail, sobbed through much of the hearing.
Jet2 calculated that the incident cost it £86,000, the court heard.
Mr Crimp said Haines had “lunged” at a door handle on the plane, which had 206 people on board.
One passenger later told police he “really feared she would open the door”, Mr Crimp said, adding: “He said ‘I honestly thought I was going to die’.”
Haines said “I want to die” and “I’m going to kill you all” as cabin crew and passengers restrained her.
“She continued to shout in a similar way,” said Mr Crimp. “She was kicking and punching.”
A passenger had seen her drinking from a bottle in the overhead locker, he said, and a 200ml bottle of gin was later found in a duty free bag with around a quarter of its contents gone.
Haines said she had also been drinking in the airport, the prosecutor said.
Mr Crimp said it was impossible to open the exit door mid-flight but many passengers did not know this.
The risk arose from all of the cabin crew dealing with the incident, he said, leaving them unable to deal with any further emergency or to be briefed by the pilot.
He added that the RAF jets were sent “in error”.
The court heard that the exact nature of the incident may have been unclear to decision-makers on the ground.
“Had there not been a disruption on the flight deck (the decision to launch the jets) would not have occurred,” said Mr Crimp.
An RAF spokesman, speaking after the court hearing, said that quick-reaction jets are available 24/7 and if there is any doubt over the nature of an incident, jets will be launched in case they are needed with “questions asked later”.
Haines had previously been convicted of a drink-driving offence and three counts of assaulting an emergency worker, which all happened in April 2019, 17 days before the incident.
Oliver Saxby QC, mitigating, said Haines has been diagnosed with mental ill health and has not touched alcohol since the day of the incident.
“She wasn’t just drunk, she was unwell,” he said.
He added: “She’s appalled, she’s ashamed, she’s deeply embarrassed by what she did.
“She’s disgusted with herself.”
He said Haines is unemployed with no savings and goes to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings up to four times a week.
Haines wept as she was led to the cells.