As cabin crew struggled to get to grips with the drunken passenger, who suffers from a fear of flying, Latvian heavyweights Roman Dabolins and Alexejs Kosobokovs intervened to prevent the precarious situation from spiralling out of control.
“We were flying to a boxing tournament at the time,” Dabolins told The Local on the phone from Riga.
The 33-year-old Russian-speaking Latvian at the centre of the case was sentenced last month by Gothenburg District Court to eight months in prison for air traffic sabotage and violent resistance.
He was also ordered to cover Ryanair’s additional fuel and administrative costs, amounting to €16,665.
But prosecutor Hans Göran Tommila is now calling for the man’s sentence to be lengthened. In a submission to the Court of Appeal, he refers to a similar case that resulted in an 18-month jail term.
“In this particular case it is clear that the cabin crew had lost control of security on board and it was just a fortunate coincidence that the two boxers were able to intervene and establish control over the situation,” he writes.
The case follows the passenger’s attempt in June to make a mid-air exit from a Ryanair flight travelling from London Stansted to Riga. But as the plane approached southern Sweden and the crew became increasingly apprehensive, the pilot felt he had no option but to land the aircraft in Gothenburg and have the unruly passenger removed.
The Latvian, who has an address in Ireland and was travelling to Riga to meet his daughter, told the court he had a serious fear of flying. In a bid to ease his nerves, he drank a couple of beers at Stansted before starting to neck a one-litre bottle of vodka while on the plane.
He said he had a hazy memory of screaming at a stewardess about a hot dog, but remembers little of what happened next. There were however plenty of witnesses prepared to step forward and fill in the blanks.
Around twenty minutes into the flight, cabin crew became aware of a ruckus towards the rear of the aircraft. After the 33-year-old threatened to kill a female passenger upon arrival in Riga, staff ordered him to move to the front of the plane.
The situation intensified at the front of the aircraft when the passenger made repeated efforts to approach the main door. At one point, he pushed a steward out of the way and shouted, “I want to get off the plane”.
The pilot testified that there was never any danger of the passenger succeeding in opening the door. But he added that there was a concern he would release the emergency slide inside the cabin, with potentially serious consequences.
The situation was eventually alleviated by Dabolins and Kosobokovs, who noticed that staff on board were unable to get the man to sit down. The two boxers decided to take action and made their way to the front of the plane.
The Latvian boxers grabbed an arm each and forced their 33-year-old countryman into a seat, holding him in position until the aircraft landed in Gothenburg and police climbed aboard to arrest the man.
Perhaps unsurprisingly for two heavyweight boxers, Dabolins and Kosobokovs felt they had the situation under control, and told the court they felt the decision to land in Gothenburg had perhaps been taken too hastily.
“For me, it was not a problem,” Dabolins told The Local.