Psychology student sentenced for bad behaviour aboard long-haul flight

An Adelaide psychology student charged for his unruly behaviour on a long-haul flight had sculled beer, helped himself to alcohol, filmed flight attendants without permission, and told another passenger: “My friends will sort you out once we arrive in Sydney”.

Dominic Kojima Matthews, 26, was charged following a 17-hour Qantas flight from Dallas, in the United States, to Sydney in February.

He was suffering from an undiagnosed phobia of flying and had self-medicated with alcohol and sedatives during the journey.

Matthews pleaded guilty to two offences but Magistrate Simon Smart recorded no conviction against him in the Adelaide Magistrates Court on Friday.

In sentencing, Magistrate Smart said Matthews first caused issues early on in the flight, when he became restless and asked for customer service in a raised voice.

A short time later, he began asking flight attendants personal questions relating to safety and staffing levels.

“This made the air crew members nearby feel uncomfortable and, as a result, the manager was notified,” the magistrate said.

Later in the flight, Matthews was asked to return to his seat because the meal service had started – but he failed to comply with the request.

As he moved past a flight attendant, he called out “don’t touch me, don’t touch me” in a raised voice.

During a period of turbulence, he left his seat on a number of occasions, spoke in a raised voice about poor customer service and accused a flight attendant of pushing him.

Matthews was told by air crew he was disrupting other passengers and therefore could only have one alcoholic beverage at a time.

When informed of this, he sculled his beer and said in a raised voice: “I’m following the rules”.

His supply was eventually cut off, at which point he walked to the galley and helped himself to a can of alcohol.

He was confronted by a flight attendant and told a passenger who tried to diffuse the situation: “My friends will sort you out once we arrive in Sydney”.

The passenger became fearful as to what could happen, and Matthews gave the man “intimidating stares” for the rest of the flight.

Shortly before landing, Matthews used his mobile to film crew members’ identification without their permission.

He was told to return to his seat, the Australian Federal Police was contacted by the pilot, and, when the plane landed, Matthews was escorted from the aircraft and interviewed.

“You accept, and there is no argument, that your behaviour on the plane was unacceptable and disruptive,” Magistrate Smart said.

Matthews, of Cumberland Park, had pleaded guilty to offensive and disorderly behaviour on an aircraft and failing to comply with instructions on an aircraft.

Earlier, defence counsel Michael Dickson told the court his client, who was returning from a family holiday, was suffering from an undiagnosed fear of flying at the time of the flight but has since sought treatment.

Mr Dickson argued the student should not be convicted in part because of his prior good character, and added his career prospects may suffer.

Magistrate Smart put Matthews on a $500 bond to be of good behaviour for the next year.

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