Two Ontario women charged with multiple offences after a Cuba-bound flight they were on turned back to Toronto's Pearson International Airport were granted release on $2,500 bail Thursday.
Faced with charges of charges of smoking on board an aircraft, endangering the safety of an aircraft, mischief endangering life, mischief over $5,000 and uttering threats are:
- Melana Muzikante, 26, of Vaughan.
- Lilia Ratmanski, 25, of Whitby.
On Thursday morning, police tweeted that the two accused are also facing charges of mischief over $5,000, mischief endangering life and uttering threats.
The women appeared in a Brampton, Ont., court Thursday afternoon and each was granted $2,500 bail. Ratmanski did not want to speak to reporters as she was escorted into a car by her lawyer.
Ratmanski is to appear in court again on Sept. 29. Muzikante is due back in court Friday.
Police allege the women aboard the afternoon flight from Toronto to Varadero drank alcohol, got into a fight with each other and activated a smoke alarm by lighting a cigarette in the lavatory.
A spokesperson for Sunwing told CBC News the women also "made a threat against the aircraft, which was considered non-credible, given their condition."
Escorted to Toronto by military planes
The pilot of the 737 described the two women as disruptive "in a serious manner," and reported to NORAD (North American Aerospace Defence Command) while the plane was in U.S. airspace that the aircraft was "under threat."
Officials with NORAD's Canadian sector in Winnipeg told CBC News that they sent two Canadian Forces CF-18 fighters from CFB Bagotville in Quebec to intercept Sunwing Flight 656 and escort it back to Pearson.
Police were called to the airport between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. Wednesday. The women were arrested when the plane landed, said Const. George Tudos of Peel Regional Police.
"The disruptive behaviour of these two individuals prompted that pilot to make a decision to come back to Pearson," said Tudos. "So obviously charges will be pending and will be in relation to their actions on board that aircraft."
The flight took off again late Wednesday night with a new flight crew. Passengers were provided with meal vouchers and the airline apologized for the incident.
Airline analyst Karl Moore calls incidents like this "air rage."
"The number of people in the seats is up from the past, which is great for the airlines, but it means planes are very crowded," Moore said.
The airline said the threat the women made was considered non-credible, but that they had to follow procedure, which meant turning around and get a military escort.
"I'm not sure why they do that. It would be up to the captain and the military to respond to that threat. It seems like a bit of an overreaction," Moore said.
Sunwing says it is a major cost to divert a plane and is considering seeking restitution from the two women.
Cuba has drawn more than 1 million Canadian tourists annually in recent years, according to data published by Statistics Canada.