Don't rush to judge 'smoking' family, Cape Breton residents say
Published Wednesday, February 6, 2013 9:04AM EST
The Cape Breton family whose vacation was cut short after their behaviour in-flight landed them in hot water is the talk of their hometown, but residents of Mabou, N.S., are urging Canadians not to rush to judgment.
The family were aboard a Sunwing flight headed to the Dominican Republic last Friday night when alleged confrontations with passengers and crew forced an unscheduled stopover in Bermuda.
Three of the four family members were charged and appeared in a Bermuda court, where prosecutors alleged flight crew and the family argued over their attempts to use the bathroom while the seatbelt sign was still on after takeoff. The crew also suspected members of the family were smoking later in the flight.
- David MacNeil, 54, pleaded guilty to behaving in a disorderly manner;
- Darlene MacNeil, 52, pleaded guilty to disobeying lawful commands of a flight crew;
- The couple's 22-year-old son David Jr. pleaded not guilty to smoking on a plane, and charges were dismissed.
The elder MacNeils were reported to have each paid a $500 fine. A 16-year-old boy, believed to be the couple's younger son, was not charged in relation to the incident.
Residents of the small, tight-knit community of Mabou said the town is abuzz with news of the incident. But few were willing to speak to reporters about the family’s troubles.
Those who did speak urged others to withhold judgement until all the facts are known.
"It's very surprising. I listened intently when I heard 'Mabou,'" Phyllis MacDonald told CTV Atlantic.
“I would just like to ask people not to judge the whole community and surrounding communities. It is one incident and it is one group of people, who I’m sure regret their actions very much.”
Gordon MacIsaac, a neighbour of the family, said the incident is “the talk of the town, that’s for sure,” but added that people are jumping to conclusions without knowing all the details.
"It's a bandwagon thing, sometimes folks like to jump on that. So I think this is something I'm sure the family (has) learned something from, and us, as the general public, did as well," he told CTV Atlantic.
The family arrived back home in Mabou on Tuesday.
Sunwing Vacations has said it plans to take legal action against the family to recoup the estimated $50,000 cost of the stopover. That included flying down a company mechanic to inspect the plane, which had to land overloaded with fuel, as well as the cost of putting up travellers in Bermuda.
Sunwing also had to provide accommodations for those scheduled to make the return flight from the Dominican Republic, but were delayed by an extra day as a result of the incident.
Sunwing is offering the passengers who lost a day of vacation due to the unscheduled stopover a $150 credit for a future trip.
With a report from CTV Atlantic’s Ryan MacDonald