Maybe you like to have a drink when you fly.

No judgment there. Heck, have a second if you like. You're an adult.

But when a Southwest Airlines passenger traveling from Chicago to New Orleans blew past two drinks, and then three (on a roughly two-hour flight, mind you), flight attendants thought they might have a problem.

And then things got violent.

'Put you in a body bag'

The passenger is described in court documents as "large and very muscular ... martial arts trainer."

He marched to the front of the plane and demanded a fourth alcoholic drink, and things got heated. They were preparing to land, a flight attendant said. No more drinks allowed.

The passenger grew angry. He refused to sit down, and "asked what the flight attendants would do about it," according to a court summary of events that he later agreed to.

He then threatened to put one flight attendant "in a body bag." The captain got involved over the PA, ordering all passengers to return to their seats.

"That captain has no authority over me," Bane insisted, as fellow passenger recorded him on their cell phones and several other people tried to get him to calm down.

But we're not done yet. The plane landed. Police officers boarded. The passenger, Joel Michael Bane refused to disembark.

"Other law enforcement officers rushed aboard," the New Orleans Advocate reported. "He shouted profanities and refused commands to get on the floor or put his hands behind his back, prosecutors said. Officers finally shocked Bane with stun guns to arrest him."

No jail time?

On Friday, Bane pleaded guilty to interfering with a flight crew in federal court. Somehow, it seems he likely isn't going to have to serve any prison time. The judge could technically sentence him to 20 years, but if she gives any more than probation, Bane is allowed to back out of his plea deal.

I tried unsuccessfully to reach Bane's attorney, after he told the Advocate that his client is a military veteran who served seven combat tours in Iraq and Afghanstan, and who suffers from  "totally permanent post-traumatic stress disorder" after his military service.

Bane is "a true American hero -- a really, really good guy in a bad situation," his attorney is quoted as saying.

(By the way, Bane's attorney, Frank DeSalvo, must be the best criminal defense lawyer in America, if he's really managed to get a plea deal that includes no jail time, for a client who punched two cops on an airplane.)

Blame it on his service? 

You won't find a stronger supporter of the U.S. military than me. I have a lot of sympathy with people who are struggling with PTSD, especially veterans.

But it's not an excuse for violent and dangerous behavior--especially after drinking, and while aboard a commercial airplane.

And as a veteran myself and someone who's written a lot about the military, it's hard not to resent people who perpetuate the old "crazy veteran" stereotype, especially as an excuse for inexcusable actions.

Think about the Southwest flight attendants and passengers on board this flight. An escapade like this at 30,000 feet would be disconcerting to say the least. Highly dangerous, even.

Southwest didn't want to comment on this incident, except to say that its crews are "professionally trained to handle a variety of situations," and that flight attendants "are trained not to serve alcohol to any individual who appears to be intoxicated." 

But maybe we can all just make a rule. On two hour flights, how about a three-drink maximum?

Oh, and don't threaten your flight attendants. They're just doing their jobs.

Published on: Sep 18, 2018
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