A PILOT considered diverting a flight when a retired banker complained about seating and made a stewardess feel "held to ransom", a court was told yesterday.
Leo Larkin (61), a former AIB executive, was fined €500 after he admitted engaging in behaviour likely to cause serious offence or annoyance on the aircraft -- after being requested by a crew member to stop -- on April 3, 2010.
The State withdrew a summons for engaging in threatening, abusive and insulting behaviour with intent to cause a breach of the peace during the Aer Lingus flight.
Garda Siobhan Murphy told Dublin District Court that she took a report from cabin crew member Emer O'Shea following a four-hour flight carrying 200 passengers from Las Palmas to Dublin.
"It arose from him not getting his allocated seats on the plane," Gda Murphy said.
It was alleged the defendant acted in an "intimidating manner" and was asked to sit down several times. Gda Murphy said Mr Larkin, of Kilteragh Road, Foxrock, Dublin, caused a disturbance to cabin crew and other passengers.
"So much so that the pilot contemplated diverting the flight," the garda added.
The first disturbance lasted an hour and "the crew were not able to perform (their duties) adequately".
He was given a warning and sat down but later "he went to the front of the plane and there was another disturbance, which lasted an hour".
Gda Murphy said the stewardess felt bullied, intimidated and "held to ransom" in the galley area of the plane.
John Nolan, defending, said his client admitted causing annoyance and offence on the plane but denied intimidating or bullying the crew.
Mr Larkin, who was described in court as a retired "financial services worker" and is a former AIB executive, had been travelling with his wife, who has a serious back condition. For her comfort he paid €60 extra to book seats near the exit. The seats were not allocated to them when they boarded and this had also happened in the past, counsel said.
Mr Larkin felt his complaints had not been taken seriously but he has since tendered an apology to the staff.
Mr Nolan said his client had no previous convictions and the incident was "out of character".
Mr Larkin suffers from hypertension and after the incident he refused to accept a caution from Gda Murphy, which was no longer available when he later calmed down.
Mr Larkin has since been banned from travelling on Aer Lingus flights, the judge was told. Judge Bryan Smyth said the incident was serious and affected a number of people, adding that he did not doubt that Mr Larkin had genuine grievances.
"It is like anything in life, it is the way you deal with it," the judge said. Mr Larkin has one month to pay his fine.