A veterinary nurse whose drunken behaviour almost caused a plane to be diverted has been spared jail.
Katherine Heyes, 29, started becoming abusive to Thomas Cook crew flying from Manchester to Antalya in Turkey in May last year.
A previous hearing at Manchester Magistrates’ Court heard the Wigan resident, who was travelling with her daughter, was a nervous flyer and accepted a drink from friends who brought a bottle of vodka on board.
She was told to calm down but continued to be disruptive, swearing and shouting at crew and passengers, who later asked the captain to divert the aircraft and land.
Heyes pleaded guilty to being drunk on an aircraft at an earlier hearing and was described as “every passenger’s worst nightmare” by Judge John Edwards on Wednesday.
He told her it was only because she was a single mother with a four-year-old that was he not sending her straight to jail.
Prosecutor Eileen Rogers said in a previous hearing that Heyes and her two friends were seen going to the toilet with a beach bag, which crew suspected was used to carry alcohol. The three women were asked to use the toilet individually.
Crew members found an empty bottle of vodka where the group sat, removed it, and instructed the trio not to drink further.
The court heard all three were thought to be under the influence and Heyes slurred her words, finding it difficult to understand what a senior member of staff was saying.
After a dispute with another passenger, other travellers called the crew.
“Cabin crew approached Ms Heyes and told her to calm down and directed her to put her seat-belt on, but she didn’t do so,” Rogers said.
“There was another altercation and the other women were trying to calm her down and get her into her seat, but she caused a scratch to one of their faces and the crew had to intervene again.”
Passengers asked for the plane to be diverted but the captain said they were only 40 minutes from Antalya, where police escorted the women off after landing.
Donna Smith, a senior member of staff, said in a statement: “This was a worrying incident and we had to contemplate diverting the aircraft.
“Things became chaotic because of the actions of Katherine, and there were no thoughts or considerations to the effect on the well-being or safety of all the other passengers on board.”
Prosecutors said the incident lasted for most of the four-and-a-half-hour journey.
Defence lawyer Nicola Johnson said Heyes was “deeply remorseful” and sorry for her behaviour, which was out of character.
“She didn’t set out to consume alcohol or get herself into this state,” Johnson said.
“She is a nervous flyer, she has only flown once before and is very nervous about long flights.
“She was stressed and worried about the flight from the outset and the suspected amount of alcohol must have exacerbated her emotional state.
“She is the author of her own misfortune.”
The court was told on Wednesday that Heyes works full-time and is the sole carer for her daughter because the father left when she became pregnant.
She rarely travels, Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester heard, and social services were satisfied Heyes is a good mother.
She was given a 12-month community order with 80 hours unpaid work and told to pay £250 in costs.
Judge Edwards said: “It is because of [the daughter], and only because of her, I’m not sending you down the steps.
“You are every passenger’s worst nightmare, or you were on the 18th of May last year. You were, to use your own phrase, ‘out of it’. You should be ashamed.”
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