Terminal of choice for air rage stops

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The Independent Online
AN AMERICAN airport is marketing itself as the perfect place for dropping off unwanted travellers who have become tired and emotional.

Declining to offer the massage parlours for business clients or other special attractions favoured by some airports, Bangor International, in Maine, is fast becoming known as the place that delights in dealing with troublesome passengers.

Twenty-five per cent of all landings at Bangor are unplanned stops by planes in emergencies or in need of refuelling. Each unplanned visit can net the airport authorities $10,000 (pounds 6,250).

Given its strategic location near the flight path of many European destinations or for Europeans travelling on to locations elsewhere in the US, it is often the first choice for pilots in need of a quick landing.

Many of these unplanned stops are caused by drunk or unruly passengers - an increasing number of them British. In the past month three airliners have had to land at Maine to remove allegedly drunk or unruly Britons.

While many airports would shudder at the prospect of dealing with such horrors, Bangor International is happy to market itself at European trade conventions as the place to drop off your drunks. After the alleged offenders are locked in the Penobscot County jail, the pilots are waved on their way with an invitation to stop off any time.

"Frankly, other airports are not that interested in doing this. It's the dregs of the market," said Jeff Russell, head of the airport's marketing department.

While only a small proportion of the unplanned landings are to deal with incidents of air rage, it appears this is a phenomenon on the increase. Mr Russell believes Bangor handles between eight and twelve cases a year.

Police - and sometimes agents from the FBI - are involved in dealing with all this. "We have a whole new wing at Penobscot for Englishmen," said Paul Palumbo, based in the FBI's Bangor office. "We're serving tea."

In the past month the police have been especially busy. On 3 May an Airtours International flight was forced to make an emergency landing after Bryan Neal threatened to kick in an external window, which could have led to a drop in pressure. Neal, from Manchester, is now serving a 60-day prison sentence and owes the airline pounds 15,000 for damage he caused.

In the latest incident, Christopher Bayes, also from Manchester, allegedly groped two female flight attendants. His case is still being investigated. When Delta flight 064 made its unplanned landing earlier this week to unload Mr Bayes, the service crew at Maine knew the drill.

"It's like anything else," said Sergeant James Owen of the local police. "You do it enough times, you get used to it."