Toronto councillor helps restrain unruly passenger on Air Canada flight
Rachael D'Amore, CTV Toronto
Published Wednesday, May 17, 2017 9:22AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, May 17, 2017 6:34PM EDT
A Toronto city councillor was among several passengers on an Air Canada plane from Jamaica who helped restrain an unruly passenger who allegedly tried to open a cabin door mid-flight.
The Air Canada Rouge flight 1805 from Jamaica to Toronto was forced to land in Orlando on Monday night after a passenger became aggressive and attacked crew members.
Investigators say the man allegedly swung a coffee pot at the crew before saying that it would “only take one guy to take the plane down” and that “he wanted to take everyone with him.”
At that point, investigators say the man reached for a cabin door and began yanking on the handle.
Crew members and other passengers, including Coun. Michael Thompson, were able to restrain the man and secured him using zip ties.
According to an FBI criminal complaint, crew members initially tried to reason with the man before taking action.
A woman on the flight, who does not want to be identified, told CTV News Toronto that the crew offered the man a free iPad rental to calm him down but he refused.
She said the passenger, who was initially sitting in first-class, was brought to the back of the plane after he started throwing items at people around him.
Thompson said he was returning from a vacation in Jamaica with his mother when a male passenger started to “pose a danger” to the plane.
“I think every effort was made to try to understand this particular gentleman and try to reason with him, with the hope that he would calm down,” Thomson said on Wednesday.
“There were people crying, there were people asking that we land the plane so they could get off and things like that. But, of course, we’re 30,000 feet up, not a lot of that was going to take place."
Thompson said he sat next to the man at one point and tried to talk with him.
“At that point there was nobody at the back of the plane to make sure nothing was being done, they (the flight attendants) were trying to deal with other customers,” he said.
“It was at that point when he grabbed the hot coffee and threatened to throw it on me.”
Thomson said the situation continued to escalate and their attempts to diffuse the situation verbally had no effect.
“I think we all came to the conclusion that it wasn’t going to get any better, it was going to get worse,” he said.
The flight crew and passengers then decided it was necessary to restrain the man. Thompson said he handled the man’s legs.
“There were a number of us who ended up having to assist him, basically subduing him and putting him in restraints,” he said, adding that they had to re-tie the man at one point because he complained the ties were too tight on his wrist.
“We didn’t attempt to injure him or anything; we just wanted to get control of the situation because obviously it was a very difficult situation for us being that high up in the air. We just didn’t know what could have happened.”
While being restrained by several people, Thompson said the man “still had the ability” to lunge toward the emergency cabin door and pull on the lever.
Passengers reported that the group “could hardly restrain him.”
The whole incident lasted approximately an hour and the flight landed in Orlando at around 8:05 p.m. Monday.
In a statement provided to CTV News Toronto, a spokesperson for Air Canada confirmed that Air Canada Rouge flight 1805 was diverted due to “an unruly passenger.”
“Our crew are trained to respond to such situations and followed standard procedures to ensure the continued safe operation of the flight,” the statement reads. “Our Captain diverted the flight to Orlando where it landed safely. As this is now a police matter we have no further details to provide.”
“It should be noted that although the passenger threatened to open an exit door, this is impossible to do during the flight.” they added.
Thompson said the hectic situation has no bearing on his opinion of Air Canada.
“I will fly Air Canada again tomorrow,” he added. “I thought the crew with the collaboration of men who stepped in to assist in ensuring that the situation was stable and safe.”
The passenger, identified as Brandon Michael Courneyea, was arrested by federal agents in Orlando and will face several charges.
Thompson said he noticed Courneyea resting his head on an airline counter prior to boarding the plane. He said it appeared he was travelling alone and he “didn’t smell any alcohol on him” at the time.
With files from The Canadian Press.