Jenny Lauren fined €2,000 over 'air rage' incident

Wednesday 08 January 2014 21.48
1 of 2
The judge accepted that Jenny Lauren's behaviour was entirely out of character
The judge accepted that Jenny Lauren's behaviour was entirely out of character
She made no comment as she left the court today
She made no comment as she left the court today

A niece of fashion designer Ralph Lauren, Jenny Lauren, has been fined €2,000 after a transatlantic flight was diverted to Shannon Airport last Monday.

Jenny Lauren, 41, from New York, was brought before this morning's sitting of Ennis District Court.

She pleaded guilty to two charges against her.

Ms Lauren entered Ennis Courthouse through a back entrance and sat at the back of the court, while a number of other cases were heard.

She was arrested last Monday at Shannon airport after a Delta Airlines flight from Barcelona to New York was diverted due to safety concerns.

She was charged with threatening and abusive behaviour on the flight and being intoxicated to an extent that could cause danger to passengers.

A third charge - of causing annoyance or offence - was withdrawn. 

The court heard that costs of $43,158 (€ 31,731) had been incurred as a result of the flight diversion and the inconvenience it caused to passengers and crew.

Inspector Tom Kennedy told the court that the defendant had no previous convictions.

He outlined the circumstances which led to her arrest at Shannon Airport last Monday.

Ms Lauren was sitting in seat 21 G, about ten rows back from the cockpit on the Delta Airlines flight to New York's JFK Airport.

Around two hours into the flight, she came to the notice of flight attendants when there was an issue with the reclining mechanism on her seat.

One attendant, Constance Topping, came to her assistance but was told to "get the f*** out of my face".

Inspector Kennedy told the court this gave a flavour of what her attitude on the flight was like. 

He told Judge Patrick Durcan that Ms Lauren subsequently ran up to the galley at speed "ranting and raving".

She told Ms Topping she was going to go ballistic and pushed the flight attendant against a wall. At this point she called Ms Topping a number of other offensive names.

The court heard the supervising flight attendant, Jennifer Simpson, was also at the receiving end of some "ugly remarks".

Inspector Kennedy said by this time, passengers were getting concerned and the Captain was notified about the situation.

Another Delta Airlines captain, who was on a rest break and on board the plane, attempted to calm down Ms Lauren but she was "having none of it".

Inspector Kennedy said a decision was taken to divert to Shannon Airport, when the flight was 300 to 400 miles west of Shannon.

Gardaí and airport police met the flight when it landed and Garda Yvette Walsh observed that Ms Lauren smelled strongly of alcohol. Inspector Kennedy said little or no drink had been served to her on board but she had consumed alcohol.

He then gave a breakdown of the costs incurred as a result of the diversion and inconvenience it caused. These totalled $43,158 (31,731).

The court heard that 107 passengers of the 209 on board were discommoded.

Ten passengers missed connecting flights, 70 had to overnight for one night and 27 had to be put up for two nights. This passenger upheaval cost $17,230 (€12,668).

Fuel costs ran to $17,704 (€13,016); landing, handling and maintenance charges amounted to over $5,000 (€3,676) and there were also pilot and flight attendant costs.

The flight landed at 1.50pm and left Shannon at 4.15pm. During this time statements were taken from a number of crew members.

Inspector Kennedy said Ms Lauren's behaviour improved all the time while she was in custody. He said she had a "deal of medication" with her and was seen by a doctor during her detention at Shannon Garda Station.

Her solicitor, Sharon Curley told the court that her client was a single woman who owned a "small jewellery employment business". She has a degree in Fine Arts from Colombia University.

Ms Curley said her client was returning from a short holiday in Barcelona last Monday and that she did not remember everything about the incident.

She described the events as completely unprecedented and out of character.

The court was told that Ms Lauren had a "difficult medical past" and that she suffered from a number of medical conditions.

She was upset over the Christmas period as it caused her to remember her mother, who died in recent years.

She had three drinks before boarding the flight and had taken various medication. Ms Curley said there had clearly been a reaction between the two.

She had been separated from her travelling companion on the flight and the altitude, combined with drink and medication had resulted in the out of character behaviour.

Ms Lauren was extremely embarrassed and upset by what had happened. She was adamant that an apology be made on her behalf to gardaí, the court, her fellow passengers and the airline crew.

Ms Curley said that Ms Lauren thought she was in Spain when the plane landed in Shannon and this was the reason why she had asked a member of the gardaí to "say something in English" to her.

She said her client "absolutely and fully accepts" she may have to deal with the issue of compensation as a result of her actions on 6 January.

The Court heard four testimonials from associates and relatives of Ms Lauren. Her father wrote that the actions "will not be repeated. This is not the Jenny everyone knows and cares about".

Judge Durcan said the events outlined in court were extremely serious and extremely frightening for passengers and crew. He said the slightest deviation from the norm in an aircraft can cause concern.

It was his view that passengers would not forget the experience on board.

He took into account the guilty plea and expressions of regret but said he also had to consider the "reprehensible comments" made to flight attendants and the behaviour that caused the flight to be diverted.

Judge Durcan said he accepted that a combination of alcohol and medication had led to behaviour which was totally "out of kilter" with Ms. Lauren's normal behaviour.

He imposed a fine of €2,000 on the charge of being intoxicated on board the flight and said he had taken the other charge into account when reaching his verdict.

Ms Lauren left the court accompanied by a friend and her solicitor. She exited through the back entrance and made no comment as she exited the building.