Slap On Wrist For Causing JetBlue Emergency Landing

February 21, 2013

JetBlue plane at JFK

JetBlue plane at JFK

On June 23, 2012, Elvir Ardolic, 35, of New York, NY, boarded a JetBlue flight from New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport bound for Chicago, IL. The only problem was that upon entering the aircraft, Ardolic was intoxicated. To make matters worse, during the flight, he became disruptive when the flight crew refused to serve him alcoholic beverages. Ardolic caused such a ruckus that the aircraft was diverted to Buffalo International Airport, in Buffalo, NY, where he was removed from the plane.

Yeah, sure, as if all that happened was they took this guy off the plane.

And what about the inconvenience to all the other passengers and the danger posed to the crew?

I mean, c'mon, you ever get on a domestic flight that's supposed to take between two and three hours and, whammo, you wind up diverted to some tarmac where you sit and fume amid the apologies over the cabin speaker and the shrugs from flight personnel as to how long until we get there?

On top of that, the reason you were headed to Chicago was for that final job interview or the critical client meeting on which your job depended.  By the time you finally got to your destination, they had hired someone else and the order went to your competitor.

In any event, Ardolic sobered up and on November 30, 2012, he pleaded guilty in federal court in Buffalo to entering an aircraft in violation of security requirements, which carried a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Federal prosecutors are usually eager to "send a message" and to ensure the public's ongoing safety. So what did Ardolic get by way of the up-to-one-year in prison and $100,000 fine guideline?

On February 20, 2013, U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder, Jr. sentenced Ardolic to one year probation with the condition that he not use drugs or alcohol. Also, Ardolic agreed to make restitution to JetBlue for the cost of the emergency landing in Buffalo. How does that actually work? Did he write out a check . . . I'm going to write this out for the full amount but you're going to have to hold it until Wednesday and, by the way, is that jet blue one or two words?

I mean, seriously? That's it? No prison? No fine? And an unspecified amount of restitution as stated in the official press release?

You force the emergency landing of a commercial aircraft in these post-9/11 days and all that you get is probation, you promise to be a good boy for a year, and you pay for the cost of the diverted flight? It may also have been helpful if the Department of Justice advised us in its press release as to the actual cost of the diversion but, alas, this type of case doesn't seem to warrant full disclosure - for some odd reason. All of which furthers the unsettling impression that these cases are mere nuisances rather than the far more serious matters that they present.

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