A family traveling from Canada to the Caribbean forced a pilot to make an emergency landing last Friday night after allegedly refusing to cooperate with flight attendants who accused them of smoking on board.
The family of three, later identified as David McNeil Sr., 54, Donna McNeil, 52, and David McNeil Jr., 22, was accused of unruly behavior after flight attendants suspected the younger McNeil had taken a smoke break in the plane’s bathroom en route to the Dominican Republic from Halifax. The ensuing altercation with flight attendants and the alleged violation of safety and aircraft regulations prompted the pilot of the Canada-based Sunwing Airlines jet to stop abruptly in Bermuda, where the family was arrested upon landing.
Dave Shellington, the husband of a passenger on the plane, told the CBC:
They were smoking in the plane’s washroom and when they came out they got into a little bit of an argument with the attendants. They couldn’t say where they put their cigarette butts and that caused a bit of a commotion, I guess. From there it kind of escalated with the father, the mother and the son.
According to Canada’s National Post, the McNeils appeared in a Bermuda court on Monday to answer charges against them. David McNeil Sr. pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and Donna McNeil pleaded guilty to disobeying a lawful order from a flight attendant. David McNeil Jr. denied the charge of smoking on an aircraft; without evidence to the contrary, the charge was dropped. The family’s lawyer, Victoria Pearman, said that tensions were high because of delays in the flight’s departure, according to the National Post.
The plane was grounded overnight as mechanical inspectors surveyed the aircraft, and continued on to the Dominican Republic the next day, minus the McNeils. The tour operator behind the flight, Sunwing Travel Group, says it is considering suing the family for the $40,000 cost of diverting the plane.