The liquid soap will get you every time

I think I sat next to this person on a flight to India one time:

(AP) — United Airlines diverted a flight bound to London after an incoherent and disruptive passenger, apparently woozy from a combination of pills, alcohol and lavatory hand soap, allegedly tried to bite a flight attendant in the leg.

Galina Rusanova, a British citizen, was charged with interference with a flight crew and assault for disrupting United flight 934 from Los Angeles to London Heathrow Airport on April 29, forcing the plane to land in Maine. She could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Fearful of flying, Rusanova had taken four sleeping pills and consumed two or three bottles of red wine to calm her nerves, according to a statement she made to FBI special agent James McCarty.

About three hours into the flight, a United flight attendant said she found Rusanova with her feet on her in-flight food tray, kicking the seat in front of her. Rusanova, who appeared to be very intoxicated according to a court filing, requested more wine and then fell asleep.

A short time later, the same United crew member was told by passengers that Rusanova was incoherent and bothering fellow travelers.

As she approached, she saw Rusanova “drink a bottle of liquid soap that she had apparently removed from the bathroom,” according to the court document.

A melee ensued as flight attendants tried to subdue Rusanova and move her to a flight crew member’s seat at the rear of the cabin, where she was eventually handcuffed.

During that process Rusanova allegedly threw punches, kicked and pushed crew members. At one point, she fell to the floor of the galley in the rear of the aircraft and began “snapping like a dog,” trying to bite a flight attendant’s leg, according to the filing.

In a Monday hearing before a U.S. District Court in Bangor, Maine, Rusanova waived her right to a detention hearing and agreed to be detained pending trial.

Rusanova is described by the British press as a Russian-born artist, actress and author who rubs elbows with the rich and famous. She was returning home to the United Kingdom after traveling to California to visit a man she had met over the Internet, according to court documents.

“Obviously, it’s a case that’s gathered some attention,” said Matthew Erickson, her attorney. “What wasn’t disclosed through the affidavit is that Ms. Rusanova is a very intelligent, charming woman. This comes as a shock to her.”

The outrageous behavior that Rusanova apparently exhibited during the flight is completely out of character, added Erickson. “Her mistake was to mix prescription drugs with alcohol. After that, all bets were off.”

Drunken and unruly passengers have been an unpleasant fact of life for flight attendants for as long as airlines have served alcohol. But today’s crews are better equipped to deal with poor behavior than their predecessors, and far less likely to tolerate it, said aviation consultant Robert Mann.

Airline crews are equipped with tools like plastic handcuffs to restrain out-of-control passengers and trained to quickly land a plane if that person becomes violent.

“Whenever there’s an incident that involves physical abuse or threats to anyone on board, it’s taken very seriously,” said Robin Urbanski, spokeswoman for Chicago-based United. She added that such incidents are rare.

Rusanova told McCarty, the FBI agent, that she remembered little about the flight, aside from fighting with a flight attendant over seating and the quality of United’s red wine.

“She added that what she did was terrible and she feels embarrassed,” McCarty said in an affidavit to the court. While Rusanova potentially faces a lengthy incarceration, sentencing guidelines for cases like hers suggest jail terms ranging from time served to six months, Erickson said.

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