Treatment By Cabin Crew Was Unwarranted, Says Air Rage Accused

An American man accused of endangering an aircraft has said his treatment was unwarranted.

The United Airlines transatlantic service diverted to Belfast after flight attendants became worried by the behaviour of the accused. He had requested snacks before the plane had taken off and alarmed fellow passengers with his erratic actions, crew claimed.

Jeremiah Mathis Thede, 42, said it was reasonable to file a complaint after he was refused a second helping of crackers and cheese when he was hungry. He claimed that in many years of frequent flying the free snacks had never before been denied.

The Californian was down to his last dollars and had eaten only an apple during several hours delayed at Rome airport at the end of a lengthy trip through Europe.

He said: "If you are unhappy with service in the service industry it seems to me a reasonable recourse is to file a complaint."

He was denied the name of the flight attendant who withheld the crackers and was told to deal with her superior as he attempted to take details for a complaint.

Thede was on an 11-hour United Airlines flight from Rome to Chicago, connecting to San Francisco, on June 20 last year.

He told Antrim Crown Court: "Especially after a prolonged delay at the airport they should have provision for people in my position.

"I was clearly hungry. I was not taking issue with her personally but I definitely wanted to make my grievance known to the airline."

The solo traveller from Berkeley had journeyed from London to Italy to meet family and was going home. He was down to his last 50 dollars after negotiating an emergency increase in his credit card limit.

His flight was delayed by two or three hours. When he boarded the aircraft he wanted to sleep but was unable to do so because of hunger.

Thede said: "They usually have a complimentary snack.

"I figured I would just try to get that peremptorily because I would want to be asleep by the time they got around to bringing it to me."

Senior cabin crew member Sheila Wire had warned Thede about his actions before the captain decided to abort the flight.

The accused said: "I felt that it was unnecessary and unwarranted, I was kind of wondering why she was not asking me about the complaint that I had."

The plane had to dump thousands of litres of fuel before making the unscheduled stop in Northern Ireland.

As the crew would have exceeded their legal flying hours if the aircraft had resumed the journey straight away, the 264 passengers had to wait almost 24 hours before the plane could take off again, with many having to sleep on the terminal floor.

The hearing continues.