Jury Sides With Pax In ‘Nuts & Crackers’ Air Rage Case

Open Jaw

A Californian passenger who asked repeatedly for cheese and crackers on a UA – to the point where crew decided a flight diversion was necessary - has been acquitted by a jury of air rage charges and is reportedly considering suing the airline.

Jeremiah Mathis Thede, 42, was accused of acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft after cabin crew refused him more crackers and nuts during a flight from FCO to ORD last June.

As Open Jaw reported, UA claimed 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, many of them sleeping on an airport floor. The cost to the airline was estimated at $650,000.

Jurors in Northern Ireland last week failed to believe the air crew’s version of events and took just 30 min. to find Thede innocent.

Thede, who lives near San Francisco, told the court he was short of money following a long European trip and problems with a credit card, and had eaten only an apple during 5 hr. waiting at FCO for the delayed flight home.

He was not disruptive, just very hungry, his legal team said. Thede’s barrister Aaron Thompson quipped that the whole trial “was a bit crackers.”

Thede’s solicitor Patrick Madden told the court the prosecution case and the decision to divert the flight “was all based on information which is inaccurate from the cabin crew, it was based on speculation, misunderstanding and misinterpretation. “In fact there was simply no credible evidence in this case to suggest that Thede had acted in any way to endanger this flight,” Madden said.

Cabin crew claimed passengers concerned about Thede’s behaviour had approached them, but as BreakingNews.ie pointed out, none of the fellow travellers gave evidence.

Thede was reported to be “delighted and relieved” at the verdict. His solicitor said his legal team would consider legal proceedings against the airline. “United Airlines should reflect on this case. They should also consider how they handle complaints from passengers in future,” solicitor Madden said.

A spokesman for the airline said: “Although disappointed, we respect the decision of the jury in this matter.”

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