By Gel Santos Relos
MANY Filipinos in America prefer to fly Philippine Airlines (PAL) when visiting the Motherland, not only because of the shorter travel time, but also because they feel at home flying the flag carrier of the Philippines.
One kababayan felt so at home, he might just spend the next 20 years of his life in jail.
As Balitang America’s LA Correspondent Steve Angeles reported, a Pinoy passenger was arrested by authorities for an alleged drunken rampage on board a US-bound PAL flight.
The 53-year-old, California-based security guard Edgar Nonga admitted to federal authorities that he already had four alcoholic drinks at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) lounge before boarding PAL flight PR 112 bound for Los Angeles.
Upon boarding, Nonga (who visited relatives in the Philippines with his parents) helped himself to a bottle of whiskey, which he saw in the plane’s galley. The PAL crew decided to cut him off, which caused an altercation between them and Nonga.
According to a witness testimony in a federal affidavit, Nonga began cursing at flight attendants in Tagalog. He even threatened to have one killed if they did not give him another drink.
Some witnesses claim Nonga then attempted to kiss the female flight attendant, who tried to make him stop drinking. A male flight attendant (identified as RL) came to the rescue and stopped Nonga from harassing his co-worker.
This enraged Nonga even more. He began punching the male flight attendant in the torso and head.One testimony claims Nonga was even holding a key as if it were a knife, during the alleged punching spree.
Crew members were finally able to restrain Nonga and have him return to his seat. Nonga’s mother, who was very frustrated with her intoxicated and misbehaving son, then spoke to the attendants and told them to “do what they have to do” because Nonga wasn’t listening to his parents either.
Nonga then came back for more action, eventually punching RL again. With the help of passengers and other crew members, Nonga was restrained again, until the plane reached its destination.
Nonga was arrested upon touchdown of flight PR 112 in Los Angeles on Sunday morning.
He now faces federal charges for disrupting a flight crew. If proven guilty, Nonga may spend the next 20 years of his life in prison — the maximum sentence for this kind of offense.
During the investigation and according to the federal affidavit, Nonga admitted to being drunk on the plane and to helping himself to whiskey when he saw a bottle in the galley. However, he told investigators that he does not remember punching RL (the male flight attendant) nor does he remember trying to kiss a female flight attendant.
Nonga said that he recalls being pinned down, waking up handcuffed and sitting next to a big man for the final six hours of the flight.
Nonga is a former US navy man, who claims that he has no history of being diagnosed with any mental illness and that he was honorably discharged from the Navy. Officials, however, say Nongo was arrested for drunk driving in 2010.
His federal public defender declined to comment on the case.
Nonga has been set free on a $10,000 bail. He is scheduled to appear in federal court on April 1, during which time he is expected to plead guilty or not guilty.
WHAT Nonga did wrong (and this would have to be proven in court during the trial) was to interfere with the duties of a crew member, when he behaved badly inflight. This in violation of federal law.
Federal Aviation Regulations 91.11, 121.580 and 135.120 state that: “No person may assault, threaten, intimidate, or interfere with a crewmember in the performance of the crewmember’s duties aboard an aircraft being operated.”
The Federal Aviation Authority website even stipulates :
“The repercussions for passengers who engage in unruly behavior can be substantial. They can be fined by FAA or prosecuted on criminal charges.
As part of the FAA’s Reauthorization Bill (April 16, 2000) FAA can propose up to $25,000 per violation for unruly passenger cases. Previously, the maximum civil penalty per violation was $1,100. One incident can result in multiple violations.
So the next time you fly, be sure to behave well. If you cannot handle your alcohol well, don’t even drink. Let Nonga’s inflight misadventure be a lesson learned.