Air rage passenger lands... in jail

Briton gets 11 months for being lewd, violent during drunken rampage on Emirates flight

LONDON • An airline passenger has been jailed for 11 months after a drunken rampage during a flight from Dubai to Birmingham.

Jasbir Singh Bharaj, 46, threatened to punch a flight attendant, bit a police officer, caused damage to the in-flight entertainment system of the Emirates plane, swore and embarked on a series of racist rants, and dipped his finger in wine and rubbed it on his private parts.

His unruly behaviour prompted one flight attendant to describe Bharaj as "the worst passenger he had ever encountered".

Judge James Burbridge, delivering his sentence on Wednesday, said Bharaj drank vodka mixed with wine on an Emirates flight from Dubai to Birmingham in September last year, and became abusive and violent after the crew refused to serve him more alcohol.

Bharaj, the Birmingham Crown Court heard, then proceeded to tell a female cabin crew member that if she were on the ground, he would punch her in the face, reported the Telegraph.

The judge also condemned his lewd and racist behaviour. "In a particularly grotesque piece of behaviour, you dipped your fingers in your glass of wine and rubbed them on your private parts," said the judge said, adding that "the air hostess felt abused and disgusted after seeing you touch yourself in such a sexually explicit way".

Bharaj also hurled abuse at Muslims, he said, and caused £2,500 (S$5,300) worth of damage to the plane's in-flight entertainment system, the court heard.

Bharaj's antics continued even after he landed - he verbally abused police, and bit a police officer while in the police car.

Prosecutor William Dudley said Bharaj, who is from Leicester, was returning from a trip to Thailand to visit his estranged wife.

In his defence, Bharaj's lawyer Satvir Aujla said: "Mr Bharaj is suffering from considerable ill health and is due to have a hip replacement on Wednesday. His first marriage ended when he found out his wife was having an affair, and his second relationship with a Thai woman also ended poorly."

His lawyer added that his client "is ashamed and remorseful for his actions", reported the Birmingham Mail.

The judge, addressing Bharaj, said: "People need to know that if you get drunk on an airplane, upset other passengers and cause cabin crew to have a difficult job, then custodial sentences apply. You have many previous convictions and, it seems, you will not learn your lesson."

There have been several cases of air rage when passengers were drunk and refused alcohol by the crew. Some of the worst incidents include football-star-turned-actor Vinnie Jones, who got drunk on a flight and slapped a fellow passenger ten times, while American investment broker Gerard Finneran climbed onto a food cart and defecated on it after he was refused a drink.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 27, 2015, with the headline 'Air rage passenger lands... in jail'. Print Edition | Subscribe