Sunwing Flight 656: 2nd woman charged, Melana Muzikante, released on bail

The second Ontario woman charged with multiple offences after a Cuba-bound flight she was on turned back to Toronto's Pearson International Airport is out of jail.

Two disruptive passengers may be on the hook for more than just criminal charges

Melana Muzikante, 26, of Vaughan, right, was released from jail on Friday. Lilia Ratmanski, 25, of Whitby was released Thursday. (Facebook)

The second Ontario woman charged with multiple offences after a Cuba-bound flight she was on turned back to Toronto's Pearson International Airport is out of jail. 

Both women accused of the disruptive behaviour were granted release on $2,500 bail Thursday. Lilia Ratmanski, 25, of Whitby, was released the same day, but Melana Muzikante, 26, of Vaughan, was held overnight until someone could sign for her release. 

The two are faced with charges of smoking on board an aircraft, endangering the safety of an aircraft, mischief endangering life, mischief over $5,000 and uttering threats during the incident Wednesday night.
Lilia Ratmanski, 25, of Whitby, left, and Melana Muzikante, 26, of Vaughan appear in court on Aug. 28. (Alex Tavshunsky/CBC)

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.

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.

The women were arrested when the plane landed, said Const. George Tudos of Peel Regional Police. 

The two may be on the hook for more than just the criminal charges, as well.

'The captain just had enough'

Scrambling CF-18s isn't cheap. It costs $45,000 to put a Canadian CF-18 in the air for one hour.

Airline analyst Karl Moore says it seems excessive to call in the military to escort the commercial flight over something like this, but that it is the pilot's responsibility to ensure everyone's safety.
Lilia Ratmanski, 25, is released on bail at a Brampton, Ont., courthouse on Thursday. (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/Canadian Press)

"At a certain point the captain just had enough, and felt like this was something which was causing a very bad scene on board," 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 getting a military escort. 

Sunwing says it is a major cost setback to divert a plane, and in this instance they estimate that cost to be about $50,000. The airline is considering seeking restitution from the two women. 

Ratmanski is to appear in court again on Sept. 29. It is unclear when Muzikante is scheduled to next appear.


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