A grandmother who punched a passenger in the face during a drunken air rage incident on a Qantas flight to New Zealand has avoided jail, but will have to compensate the airline for its costs in turning the flight around.
Frances Macaskill, 58, was fined $4502 and sentenced to four months' jail, suspended for two years.
Magistrate Luisa Bazzani said Macaskill's behaviour had been "appalling" and some passengers on board the plane would have felt particularly vulnerable.
Ms Bazzani said if she reoffended, she could expect to be jailed.
The magistrate granted a request from Qantas for restitution from Macaskill of $23,470, the cost to the airline for the flight having to return to Melbourne because of the grandmother's drunken behaviour.
Macaskill, from Perth, had pleaded guilty in the Melbourne Magistrates Court to one charge of offensive and disorderly behaviour on board an aircraft and one charge of assault over the air rage incident.
She had faced a maximum penalty of two years jail and a $7075 fine.
Macaskill had been in seat 8F on board Qantas flight QF37 bound for Wellington at 9.20am last Saturday when she began to disrupt the flight by yelling profanities at other passengers and the air crew.
Commonwealth prosecutor Lauren Gurry said the air crew had observed Macaskill, a retired nurse, drinking alcohol she had bought duty free at Melbourne International Airport before boarding the plane.
Macaskill began punching the seats in front of her and ignored orders from the air crew to stop.
When a male passenger sitting in seat 7E next to his wife asked Macaskill to be quiet, she stood up and punched him with a closed fist to the right side of the face, causing a 6cm cut and heavy bleeding.
Macaskill was restrained by the cabin crew with the help of the victim and placed in flexi cuffs before being moved to an empty seat at the rear of the aircraft.
But when she continued to yell profanities and repeatedly headbutted the seat in front of her, the crew used three child seatbelts attached together to strap Macaskill across the shoulders to the seat to stop her from injuring herself.
The captain by this stage had had enough and decided at about 10am to return to Melbourne because of Macaskill's behaviour.
Federal police who arrested Macaskill said she was swearing loudly, slurring her words and was suffering the effects of alcohol.
Macaskill claimed she had no memory of what had happened and was shocked and appalled by what she had done.
Ms Gurry said today that Macaskill had been involved in a similar incident on a Virgin Airlines flight on April 29 last year when she was fined for being offensive and disorderly and smoking on the flight.
Ms Bazzani said if Macaskill lived in Victoria she would have recommended she be assessed and treated for alcohol abuse.
- Sydney Morning Herald