An Irish man on a Delta flight from Dublin to New York has been charged after allegedly refusing to wear a mask, throwing a can that hit another passenger and exposing his buttocks to a flight attendant.
Shane McInerney, 29, from Galway, created “numerous disturbances” on the January 7 Delta flight that was heading to John F Kennedy International Airport, according to a federal complaint filed in the Eastern District of New York.
The legal papers read: “During the approximately eight-hour flight, the defendant repeatedly refused to wear a face mask despite being asked dozens of times by flight crew personnel.”
McInerney has been charged with interfering with flight crew, a felony that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
He made a court appearance last week and was released on bond. His lawyer, Benjamin Yaster, declined to comment.
In a statement, Delta said the airline “has zero tolerance for unruly behaviour at our airports and aboard our aircraft as nothing is more important that the safety of our people and our customers”.
According to the complaint, McInerney at one point walked from his seat to complain to an attendant about the food, and on his way back pulled his pants down, mooning the attendant and nearby passengers.
The pilot attempted to speak with McInerney, the complaint said, at which point the passenger put his cap on the pilot’s head.
He also told the pilot not to touch him and put his fist near the pilot’s face, according to the complaint.
As the plane made its final approach to JFK, McInerney allegedly refused to stay in his seat, instead standing in the aisle. Authorities took him into custody upon landing.
Accounts of unruly passenger behaviour have risen sharply, with US airlines saying there were more than 5,000 episodes last year.
The majority of them, over 3,600 cases, included people allegedly refusing to wear face masks as required.