Israir Mulls Police Complaint Against Abusive Bulgaria-flight Passengers

Carrier's vice president for security accompanies return flight to Tel Aviv, addresses disruptive passengers.

Israir said it would bar from its flights the passengers who disrupted a recent flight to Varna, Bulgaria, and is mulling whether to file a police complaint against them.

Haaretz reported on Sunday that a disagreement between a passenger and a flight attendant came close to degenerating into physical violence.

The passengers swore at and threatened the flight attendant because they wanted to buy duty-free chocolate without waiting their turn.

The authorities in Bulgaria questioned the passengers, who returned to Israel early Monday morning.

Israir’s vice president for ground operations and security, Moshe Talmor, flew to Varna after the incident so he could be on the passengers’ return flight.

To ensure that the flight would go smoothly, he spoke to the passengers before takeoff from Bulgaria, and only then approved them for embarkation.

When the flight landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport, the problematic passengers covered their faces and tried to avoid the media scrum that awaited them.

Avner Yarkoni, a former director-general of the Israeli Civil Aviation Authority, criticized Israir’s approach to the passengers on the flight to Varna.

“If this were a Western airline, the captain would have made an unscheduled landing along the way,” Yarkoni said. “If it were an American airline, the passengers might have been placed in restraints.

“At the end of the day, it’s the police who are supposed to deal with passengers. To my mind, the gentleness, not to say feebleness, shown by Israir, after landing in both Varna and at Ben-Gurion airport on the return trip won’t curtail this completely unacceptable behavior.”

A plane, he said, “is not a land vehicle. Any unruliness or violation of authority could have grave unintended consequences.

“For that reason the plane’s captain, like the captain of a ship, has draconian authority because he is responsible for the aircraft and its passengers.”

On Sunday, Israir had said after the incident that “passenger violence against cabin crew is growing” and that it would “do everything to ensure a high level of security and safety.”