A BOLTON businessman 'flipped' on a holiday flight to Portugal and had to be restrained by aircrew after he began punching his pregnant wife.
Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court heard how Sajid Rafiq had set off from Manchester Airport on a Monarch flight bound for Faro with his wife and two children on May 29 2014.
Alexander Langhorn, prosecuting, told how the aircraft was carrying 214 passengers plus crew for the two and a half hour flight, which was uneventful to begin with.
But he said trouble started an hour into the flight after Rafiq went to use the toilet at the back of the aircraft. Flight attendants were trying to serve passengers as Rafiq walked back down the aisle.
“He became aggressive at that point, barging past the crew,” said Mr Langhorn.
Witnesses described him as 'raging' and had 'anger in his face.' He was ordered to his seat in row 19, but then he proceeded to grab his wife, who was sitting across the aisle from him, in a headlock and started punching her.
Crew members stopped the assault and escorted him away from his family towards the front of the plane, where they gave him a cup of water and tried to calm him down.
But Mr Langhorn said Rafiq continued shaking and being emotional, acting in a strange manner.
Rafiq, aged 36, of Chorley New Road, Bolton, pleaded guilty to negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or any person therein.
Phillip Boyd, defending, said Rafiq had not been drinking but had suffered a mental breakdown during the flight, the culmination of pressure he was under from marital problems and attempting to build up work as a consultant following the sale of his business.
He has since been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and is receiving treatment.
Mr Boyd said Rafiq, who has now separated from his wife, had behaved in an extremely bizarre way on the aircraft.
“It would have caused very considerable fear among the other passengers,” he said, but added that Rafiq is now remorseful and embarrassed about the incident and has taken steps to improve his mental health.
Sentencing Rafiq to a conditional discharge for three years, Judge Bernard Lever described it as a 'sad case.'
“Unlike so many of the air rage cases we hear in this court you hadn’t had a single drop of drink,” the judge told him.
“You completely flipped on the plane and you caused a great deal of concern to the crew and the passengers.
Rafiq wept as the judge added: “You should know the court almost always takes a very, very serious view of outlandish behaviour on planes. Mercifully nobody was hurt and I think it is inappropriate to give you an immediate custodial sentence.”
However, Judge Lever banned Rafiq from flying again until he can produce a written medical report stating there is no risk of him repeating the conduct he exhibited on the Faro flight.
“The duty of the court to protect the public in the air cannot be overstated,” said Judge Lever.