Sunwing Flight 656: 'Unruly' passengers force plane's return to Pearson
2 women arrested after drinking, setting off smoke detector in lavatory and getting into 'altercation'
A Sunwing flight en route to Cuba was forced to turn around and return to Toronto's Pearson International Airport on Wednesday evening after two disruptive passengers caused a major disturbance.
Sunwing confirmed that the flight was en route to Varadero when "two unruly female passengers" consumed a significant amount of duty-free alcohol in the airplane lavatory and lit a cigarette, triggering the smoke detector.
"These passengers proceeded to get into a physical altercation with each other and made a threat against the aircraft, which was considered non-credible given their condition," Janine Chapman, vice-president of marketing for the airline, said in a statement.
The pilot of the 737 aircraft described the two female passengers 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."
CF-18 fighters scrambled
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.
"Our flight crew followed the appropriate procedures and the aircraft was diverted back to Toronto where it has now landed," said Chapman.
Police were called to the airport between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m., and the two passengers were arrested when the plane landed, said Const. George Tudos with 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 was preparing to take off again late Wednesday night with a new flight crew. Customers were provided with meal vouchers and the airline apologized for the incident.
The women are expected to appear in a Brampton, Ont., court Thursday.