TORONTO—A booze-fuelled fight between two women who were allegedly drinking and smoking in an airplane bathroom prompted Sunwing to turn a Cuba-bound flight back to Toronto, the airline said—along with a brief military jet escort.
The women also made a threat against the aircraft, but “it was considered non-credible given their condition,” Sunwing’s Janine Chapman said in a statement.
Nonetheless, two Toronto-area women are now facing charges of smoking on board an aircraft and endangering the safety of an aircraft.
Lilia Ratmanski, 25, of Whitby, and Milana Muzikante, 26, of Vaughan, were set to appear in court in Brampton, Ont., for a bail hearing Thursday.
Peel Regional Police Const. Thomas Ruttan said the pair will face additional charges including mischief endangering life and uttering threats.
The flight left Toronto at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday en route to Varadero via Manzanillo, but was disrupted by “two unruly female passengers,” Sunwing said.
The women consumed a “significant quantity of their duty-free alcohol purchase in the lavatory and lit a cigarette, triggering the smoke detector alarm,” Chapman said. “The passengers proceeded to get into a physical altercation with each other and made a threat against the aircraft.”
The pilot decided to turn the plane around over South Carolina and “that’s when NORAD got involved,” said Major Julie Roberge, a spokeswoman for NORAD based in Colorado Springs, Colo.
NORAD scrambled two CF-18 fighter jets based out of Bagotville, Que., to escort Flight 656 back to Toronto. The jets met the aircraft at the Canadian border and did not venture into American airspace, Roberge said.
The CF-18 escort lasted just four minutes, she said.
The aircraft landed at Pearson International Airport at about 8:30 p.m. and Ruttan said the entire plane “erupted in cheers” when the two women were removed from the aircraft.
The flight took off for a second time from Toronto around 11 p.m. Wednesday with a new flight crew, Chapman said.
Roberge called the military escort a precautionary measure and a standard procedure in such incidents.
NORAD also used two American F-16 fighter jets based out of Toledo, Ohio in late July as a precautionary to escort another Sunwing flight as it returned to Toronto.
A 25-year-old man allegedly made a “direct threat” to the aircraft and it was turned back to Toronto about 45 minutes into the flight to Panama City.