Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Flying High

From the Rocky Mountain News:

They wouldn’t be quiet. They wouldn’t sit down. They snatched mini-bottles of liquor from the beverage cart, and then they urinated on the floor.

To United Airlines officials – and likely the other passengers on the packed flight from Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon – their behavior was downright barbarian.

In fact, they are Barbarians.

The rowdy passengers, the airline said, were members of the Denver Barbarians Rugby Club, which had just placed seventh of 12 teams in a national tournament in Pittsburgh.

United spokesman Jeff Green said the rugby ruckus erupted on Flight 299 to Denver.

“The flight attendant crew wound up cutting off at least some of the members from the rugby team from liquor sales,” Green said.

“And they weren’t happy about that,” he said. “They became very disruptive.”

“Ultimately the flight attendant crew notified the captain and he turned on the seat belt sign,” Green said.

That required all passengers to sit down and buckle up, but Green said it didn’t work.

“It was ignored,” he said.

Then, he said, some team members took liquor from the beverage cart parked in the galley – an estimated $90 worth.

United employees later found mini-bottles of red wine in seats on the plane, taken from the liquor cart, plus a fifth of vodka – an item not sold on board, Green said.

“They had brought their own liquor,” he said.

Finally, Green said, a player or players urinated on the galley floor and on the door, walls and floor of a lavatory.

“That prompted the captain to request that authorities meet the airplane when it landed in Denver,” he said.

Denver police officers were there when the plane landed at Denver International Airport.

Two rugby players were taken to a detoxification center to sober up, Denver police spokeswoman Virginia Lopez said.

No one was arrested. In recent months, at least two disruptive passengers have been charged federally, but in each of those cases there were allegations that the passengers had physically assaulted others.

Lopez said the team has agreed to pay United for the liquor that was taken.

Club president Paul Hoskins Sr. did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

My flights yesterday were uneventful.