Court fines Finnair passenger for 'air rage' toilet incident

The passenger on the Finland-Vietnam flight told the court that the damage was the result of 'turbulence'.

The incident occurred aboard a Finnair flight from Helsinki to Vietnam. File photo. Image: Tomi Natri / AOP

Helsinki District Court has handed down a one-year suspended prison sentence to a 42-year-old Finnish man in relation to an incident aboard a Finnair flight from Helsinki to Vietnam in 2017.

The man was also ordered to pay 43,000 euros in damages to Finnair, as well as cover the airline's legal costs in the case.

The court heard that the incident began when the defendant tried to pay for in-flight purchases with a Finnair gift card, but this method of payment was refused by the flight attendant.

According to the attendant, the man then became angry and went to one of the airplane’s toilets. While he was there, loud banging noises were heard coming from the cubicle.

When he returned to his seat, the flight attendant went to check the toilet.

"I have never in my career seen so many broken parts in a toilet, and it smelled of vomit and urine," the flight attendant told the court.

"Extreme force" required to cause damage

The court heard the accused had attempted to pull the cabinet away from under the cubicle’s sink, breaking off one door and causing damage to the wall behind it in the process. He also broke a towel rack from the mirrored wall.

"It would have been necessary to use extreme force to remove the towel rack and the cabinet door," a Finnair safety director, who was a witness in court, said.

During the preliminary investigation, the defendant admitted to police that he caused the damage to the toilet, but in court he denied the act was intentional. Instead, he said a period of turbulence had caused him to lose his balance.

"I wobbled due to turbulence, and I grabbed the mirror cabinet," the man said in court, adding that he had been drinking alcohol before and during the flight, as well as taking sedatives.

Finnair’s security director was asked at the trial if turbulence could have caused the damage to the cubicle.

"No," the director replied.

Four further witnesses also told the court that there was no exceptionally strong period of turbulence during the flight.

Endangered the safety of passengers

After the incident, the accused fell into a deep sleep and was not awoken by the flight attendants until the airplane arrived at its destination, by which time the captain had alerted Vietnamese authorities.

The court ruled that the man had endangered the safety of other passengers through his actions, and that the effects of the alcohol and sedatives did not exclude him from criminal liability.

"The incident could have become very dangerous if the damage had affected the aircraft's cabin pressure," the Helsinki District Court stated in its ruling.

The district court's judgment is not final, leaving the defendant room to appeal the decision to a higher court.