An EasyJet passenger subjected cabin crew to a violent homophobic attack at 9.30am after drinking four pints of Stella.
Michael Cunnett and his wife were sitting on plane at Gatwick waiting to fly to Egypt for their honeymoon when he decided to try and smoke his e-cigarette, a court heard today.
When politely asked to stop by airline crew he became aggressive and started attacking staff and shouting homophobic slurs.
Holidaymakers keen for some February sun were delayed 45 minutes while cabin crew dealt with the abusive man and got him off the flight.
Cunnett, 38, of Tonstall Road in Epsom, pleaded guilty to intentionally interfering with performance of aircraft crew member's duty, two charges of common assault and one count of criminal damage.
Cunnett attacked cabin crew and called them 'queer'
Prosecutor Ryan Richter told Hove Crown Court today that Cunnett started swearing and calling members of the cabin crew ‘queer’.
He said: “The captain decided that it would be best if he was to be offloaded.”
However Cunnett – apparently furious – began punching one member of cabin crew, knocking him to the floor.
“Another member of staff saw the blow being struck towards his colleague and thereafter took hold of the defendant in a bear hug and told him that he was to be offloaded.
“Cunnett turned around toward the man and punched him to the left hand side of his face.”
The victim felt ‘excruciating pain’ and reeled away from the defendant, the court heard.
Arrested by police but incident continues
“A retired couple [sitting nearby] described this as being the most violent event that they had ever witnessed.”
Eventually staff managed to push Cunnett off the plane and he was arrested by police.
“He was swearing and complaining that he had done nothing wrong but had been ejected from the flight.
“The officers tried to ask him to calm down.”
Cunnett was put in a police van where he began bashing his head against the vehicle and kicking the cage, damaging it.
'No one deserves to be discriminated against for their sexuality'
In a powerful statement one of the cabin crew that was attacked said: “I am a gay male and I am extremely proud of it.
“No one deserves to be discriminated against for their sexuality, religion or race. Living in a diverse society is something to be embraced, not ridiculed.”
Defence barrister David Forsyth said that the behaviour was ‘out of character’.
He added: “He accepts that his behaviour must have been very frightening and alarming for all travellers and that his abusive and obnoxious behaviour was utterly deplorable.
“He accepts that he used homophobic language. He denies that he has homophobic opinions.”
Judge: 'Attack on sexuality of the cabin crew is utterly shameful'
Judge David Rennie said Cunnetts’ abusive attack was ‘absolutely disgraceful behaviour’ and ‘like a child having a tantrum’.
He said: “We do have to ask what airports are doing selling alcohol at that time of the morning.
“Your attack on the perceived sexuality of the cabin crew is utterly shameful
“The gay community is an integral part of our community. We are all one.”
Cunnett was jailed for seven months and ordered to pay £500 compensation to each of his victims.