Nuts & Crackers Pax Denies Responsibility For Diversion

Open Jaw

Nuts and crackers. That’s what the man wanted. The same words could be an apt description of his mental state.


American Jeremiah Mathis Thede was the passenger responsible for the very costly diversion of UA971 from FCO to ORD 20JUN.


It was reported at the time that Thede’s insistent demands for more and more crackers and nuts to nibble aboard the flight progressed to behaviour so erratic that the pilot diverted the aircraft and dumped 50,000 litres of fuel.


The plane landed at BFS, where 270 pax were forced to spend the night, with many of them sleeping on an airport floor. The cost of the incident to the airline was estimated at $650,000.


The extraordinary story of UA971 is back in the news, as Thede is being tried in an Irish court. The court has heard that the Californian had made insistent demands for nuts and crackers, then paced the aisle, lifting bags, opening overhead bins and disturbing pax and crew.


An airport policeman said Thede refused to sit down until fed nuts. Ten minutes later he arose and demanded yet more nuts. When cabin crew told the Californian nut fancier to wait until other pax had been served, Thede retorted: “I can have as much nuts and crackers as I f****** want!”


Eventually, his behaviour, which one fellow pax described as ‘creepy,’ grew so disruptive the pilot decided to head for Belfast.


Defence barrister Aaron Thompson described the high-profile case as “novel” and said his client was “not even aware” of common assault as an offence. The lawyer told the judge that diverting the plane was not his client’s decision. “These are all decisions taken by the flight crew,” said Thompson. “The pilot takes a decision to divert at a large cost.”


Thede was reported to have spoken several times during the brief court hearing to confirm he did not wish to give evidence or call witnesses at this stage. The case continues.

(will not be published)