Drunk Passenger Gets Jail Time, Has To Reimburse American Airlines $7,757

The first sign that Russell Petrie was too drunk to fly was probably when he boarded the plane and yelled “let’s party and have some drinks!”

Petrie, a Canadian citizen, managed to order five vodka drinks and two glasses of wine from two different flight attendants before AA cut him off during his flight from Seattle to Miami. After making some suggestive remarks to female flight attendants and other female passengers, Petrie is reported to have said: “you don’t [deleted] decide how much vodka I can drink . . . I’ll meet you off the airplane.” He also grabbed a female passenger’s butt, because that’s the type of classy guy he is.

Petrie then made his way into the airplane’s lavatory where he began loudly pounding on the airplane’s walls. At this point the flight was diverted to Denver so Petrie could be arrested.

From The Province:

Russell Petrie, 30, struck a plea bargain that will likely result in a sentence of six to 12 months and up to a $10,000 fine, according to Colorado court documents.

Maximum penalty for the charge is 20 years and a $250,000 fine.
Petrie will also be asked to reimburse American Airlines $7,757 for the cost of landing the Seattle-Miami flight in Denver.

In exchange for a guilty plea, a charge of sexual assault was dropped against Petrie, who also grabbed the buttocks of a female passenger on the flight, according to an agreed statement of facts filed in court.

Petrie, who has been a Colorado jail since the incident, may be deported.

Drunken airline passenger makes plea bargain [Canada.com]


Edit Your Comment

  1. colinjay says:

    I’m not normally one to believe in the “sue the bar for negligence” line of thinking, but…

    Serving seven drinks to an already intoxicated passenger?

    If not negligent, it’s at least stupid.

  2. Fry says:

    You guys can keep him.

    @colinjay: Agreed.

  3. Inhocmark says:

    I’m with you guys…7 drinks…if they diverted to Denver, he couldn’t have been on the plane more than an hour…

    If rather than being an a-hole he had’ve done something like die of alcohol poisoning, I think AA would be sued into oblivion

  4. SchecterShredder says:

    Did his hockey team leave him behind? Is it Avril Lavigne’s boyfriend? Crazy…

  5. ClayS says:

    He should have to reimburse the other passengers for the delays he caused them.

  6. timmus says:

    Here’s the harrowing flight on FlightAware: [flightaware.com] Apparently it’s Alaska Airlines, NOT American Airlines, unless there’s some sort of codeshare going on.

    And FWIW I’m finding it pretty damn heavyhanded locking some guy for a month just for being drunk on a plane (after the airline fed him that alcohol, no less). I have no problem with him paying a huge fine for the diversion, which is apparently what they’re trying to do, but jail time? If he was doing all this on a Greyhound bus where he couldn’t get dropped off (like on a freeway) I’m sure there wouldn’t be prison time.

  7. ianmac47 says:

    What I don’t understand is how simply being on an airplane magnifies penalties. Not that grabbing a flight attendant’s ass is really acceptable behavior, but by comparison, if a guy got really drunk, made inappropriate remarks, grabbed a waitress’s ass, and pounded on the wall of an earth bound bar, most likely the patron would simply be asked to leave, or at worst, spend a night in jail with a fine for public intoxication.

  8. Mayor McRib says:

    What do you expect? They played “Rhythm is a Dancer” and “What is Love?” over the loudspeaker before takeoff.

  9. AaronZ says:

    Yeah, the guy is a wino prick, but why the double standard that FAA/Airlines can arrest and fine passengers, but passengers have no rights when airlines harass us? Can the guy counter sue for neglagence on the airline’s part for continuing to serve an obviously drunk person?

  10. savvy999 says:

    I’ll admit to being pretty lit up once, after being at the bar for too long while waiting out a delay for an international flight.

    But rather than strike up the band, my main objective was to get to my seat, buckle my belt, and sleep the whole way there.

    Crazy Canucks just don’t know when to say when.

  11. Anonymous says:

    and to think…that was the pilot.

  12. homerjay says:

    Dear Mr. Petrie,
    Thank you for not being American. We get enough negative publicity as it is.

    Also, am I the only one that seems like $7700 is not all that expensive for an emergency landing?
    I don’t know, I just though something like that would cost much more than that.

  13. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @colinjay: Agreed. Also, isn’t it illegal for bars and liquor stores to serve obviously-intoxicated customers? I mean, obviously that rule gets stretched an awful lot, but a guy who’s shouting “party time!” on an airplane is pretty obvious.

    @ianmac47: I think it’s because a disruptive airplane passenger is a much greater hassle than a disruptive bar patron. The flight attendants have to neglect their other duties to deal with him, and he can’t be gotten rid of without interrupting the flight. Because of those circumstances, I think there’s a high expectation that you’re not going to be getting drunk and hitting on the passengers. Since an airplane isn’t a bar, I think that’s reasonable.

  14. Peeved Guy says:

    @CumaeanSibyl: Not to mention the desire of most people not to crash into a Nebraska field in a spectacular fireball because some jerkwad was pissed off because the flight attendant ruined his buzz.

    That’s an extreme example, I know,but I think in todays climate of air travel, both the airlines and government want to keep people feeling safe about it, hence the swift and harsh execution of justice. Is the heavy-handed tactics necessary? Not for me to say, I think it works to some degree, since most normal people are hyper-conscience about not being an ass on an airplane so they don’t get locked in the pokey for a month, so, maybe.

  15. Antediluvian says:

    I just feel so bad for Laura.

  16. Antediluvian says:

    If rather than being an a-hole he had’ve done something like die of alcohol poisoning, I think AA would be sued into oblivion

    See, it was funnier when I read that as Alcoholics Anonymous.

  17. jamar0303 says:

    @ianmac47: Well, when he’s on the bar they can kick him out. If they kick him out of a plane at 35k feet… well, that’s generally not acceptable.

  18. lakesnake says:

    I think the flight attendants should suffer some sort of punishment for being stupid enough to serve this idiot that much alcohol in the first place!

  19. azntg says:

    Wow, somebody really had fun on the airplane at the expense of his fellow passengers. In the meantime:

    “…well, blame Canada! Blame Canada! It seems that everything’s gone wrong since Canada came along… Blame Canada! Blame Canada! They’re not even a real country anyway!…”

    Couldn’t resist. No offense to ya Canucks LOL!

  20. Anonymously says:

    @ianmac47: I agree. 20 years and 250k seems massively excessive.

  21. DePaulBlueDemon says:

    Why do airlines serve drinks in the first place? I mean, that’s pretty stupid to begin with. I realize that some people may need a drink to “calm their nerves” while flying, but that’s why someone invented Valium. Take 2mg and you’re set. :) Just kidding. No more alchohol on flights! We can do without it, don’t you think?

  22. Youthier says:

    Should the attendents have continued to serve him? Probably not but come on… where’s the personal responsibility anymore?

    (I was going to say “where’s the personal responsibilty in this country?” but then I remembered he’s from Canada. Yay! +1 for the US!)

  23. DeltaPurser says:

    Like some of you said: the FA’s should take some form of responsibility for this as they shouldn’t have served him and drinks to begin with.

    Come to think of it: wasn’t there a case a few yeas back (somewhere in Texas, if memory serves me) where a guy who got in trouble for doing something similar turned around and sued the airline for having “encouraged” drinking by offering him more booze after he was already intoxicated?!

  24. gisgt says:

    Parachutes are the answer. Behave or Leave. Bet he would have shut up and sat down before they even had to open the door. Replace the floating seat pads with ones that really float. Reduces hi-jacking fears, too. “Take the damn plane, but we’re getting off”

  25. vladthepaler says:

    I don’t quite get this… AA is clearly negligent here, their stewardesses used poor judgement in serving the man. When you give someone too much to drink, it’s pretty predictible what will happen.

    Arresting the guy is reasonable, but making him remburse AA is not; the airline ought to have to pay for the cost of having incompetant stewardesses.

  26. MYarms says:

    I imagine they serve alcohol because it has something to do with making money.

  27. sixseeds says:

    @lakesnake: Maybe they afraid he’d get more belligerent and dangerous if they didn’t serve him, and/or were hoping he’d pass out.

  28. Benny Gesserit says:

    @azntg: None taken. The poor sap is only suffering from Dion’s Syndrome – long-term exposure to to Celine Dion’s music. Sad really – incurable.

  29. t-r0y says:

    I agree with most of the above posts – the airline should take some/most of the blame! On all the flights I’ve taken recently, the attendants stress that they are there for our SAFETY. Continuing to serve a drunk is reckless and most certainly unsafe!

    Maybe the other passengers should be compensated for their time and inconvenience. Not by the drunk, but by the airline. They are the one’s that were paid to provide a service and keep the airplane safe.

  30. ColoradoShark says:

    Ha! That’s what you get for calling Colorado one of the “flyover” states. You get someone who is drunk on the plane and you don’t get to just fly over. And the drunk gets to experience our hospitality.

  31. Javert says:

    The cost involved here is not a punishment but probably the landing fee at the unscheduled airport. The bus analogy fails in that you do not have to pay to make stops: airplanes do. Then to the landing fee is all of the extra fuel being consumed by the extra lift off.

    I am curious as to what happened on the flight. Most of you are condemning the airlines without knowing all of the facts. In the real world, 95% of the people do not react this way to alcohol. Maybe they need to implement a formula for serving of x drinks per y miles but for the majority of the flying public the alcohol would not have caused a problem.

    Also, I would assume that he received orders from the flight crew which he did not obey (‘Please stop pounding on the walls sir.’) Guess what, that is against the law.

    I fly a lot. An observation of those who fly is that around a fifth have some fear about flying. How dare this muncher of buttocks make the flight worse for all of the other passengers. I hope they do all sue him for lost time and emotional distress. You see, this is the type of person we need on the ‘no fly’ list.

  32. snoop-blog says:

    what an idiot. i hate those types of drunks.

  33. goller321 says:

    I agree that AA should be held partially responsible for serving the guy too many drinks. I don’t think the guy should be able to sue AA tough. More like AA should be hit with a sizable penalty akin to a bar serving too much to a patron…

    I also agree that the FAA is going too far with their rules and such these days. Even the sober, leveled headed people that raise a fuss because of airline incompetence are threatened with arrest these days. Though with regard to the fines, while I do find these to be excessive, to be fair, a bus can pull over to the side of a road, a plane can only crash and burn…

  34. sickofthis says:

    @DePaulBlueDemon: I think that eventually we’re going to look at drinking on planes with the same amusement/disbelief with which we now view smoking on planes.

  35. moviemoron says:

    First off, AA should not have served him anymore liquor after seeing that he was visibly intoxicated. So, in a way, it was partly their fault. But, that still does not exclude him from getting punished for his conduct on the plane. He should be fined and he should be deported. Heck, if I paid $500+ for a airline ticket, I want to ruide in peace and not be harrassed by a drunk!

  36. bbbici says:

    AA is to blame. Overserving has liability issues in every state. AA is technically liable for the actions of its patron if they have served him more than a specified number of drinks per hour.

    If the gentleman has to pay a fine, he would easily be able to win a countersuit against AA for the amount of the fine.

  37. marsneedsrabbits says:

    If he’d been somewhere here on earth, some government entity would have fined the bar and/or bartenders. I don’t see why the airline is exempt from being sued in this case.

  38. joemama321 says:

    @Peeved Guy:

    “That’s an extreme example, I know,but I think in todays climate of air travel, both the airlines and government want to keep people feeling safe about it, hence the swift and harsh execution of justice. Is the heavy-handed tactics necessary? Not for me to say, I think it works to some degree, since most normal people are hyper-conscience about not being an ass on an airplane so they don’t get locked in the pokey for a month, so, maybe.”

    I think we need to differentiate between a drunk d-bag and a terrorist threat, the latter being what I believe the harsh rules/penalties are intended to make us “feel safe” about.

    The federal rent-a-cops have been shown time and time again to be inept at finding much of anything beside your 3.0001 oz. container of shampoo. However, a rowdy drunk, by definition, is quite easy to spot. It seems that all the pomp and circumstance could have been saved by turning this guy’s ass around and walking him up the jetway before this plane ever left the ground.

    Threatening lockup for the grandma who returned a TSA agent’s tit-grab in kind a couple of years ago and having this idiot do hard time do NOT make me feel better about getting on an airplane.

  39. Mr. Gunn says:

    Can’t they just strap the dude into a seat and keep an eye on him? Emergency landing seems a bit overkill, as does keeping him in jail for a month. Maybe he brought that upon himself by going over and above the normal level of assholiness, but really…public intoxication shouldn’t result in a month in jail.

    Also, where’s the increased passenger rights to go along with the increased penalties?

  40. JiminyChristmas says:

    Sorry, we have to stop treating airplanes like a bizarro world where once the wheels leave the ground you’re in some sort of police state. All the cockpit doors are locked now, so no matter how obnoxious he is, a drunken jackass isn’t going to kill a planeload of people.

    Replay this same thing on the ground, and the worst case scenario would be:

    1) For public intoxication and disruptive behavior: Misdemeanor disorderly conduct. 10 to 30 day jail sentence, plus a fine for the plane diversion [A first time offender could easily see a suspended sentence, probation, or a token workhouse sentence in lieu of jail time.]

    2) For grabbing someone’s ass: Simple battery. Sentencing would be very similar to that for disorderly conduct, though a fine would be unusual. Likewise, for something as innocuous as ass grabbing the penalty for that act could very well be rolled into the disorderly change, and not charged separately. [By way of comparison, simple battery typically includes acts like punching someone in the face, knocking them to the ground, and other actions that involve physical contact but no lasting harm. While being touched inappropriately is certainly offensive to the target of such behavior, non-consensual but non-violent touching is way, way down on the list of sanctionable behavior. Not saying that’s okay, just saying that’s the way it is.]

    Another thing is that locking people up isn’t free. It’s easy to say throw the bastard in jail, but seriously, what’s it worth to you as a taxpayer? $20,000? $40,000? Because that’s what it will cost to prosecute this clown and lock him up for 6-12 months. I don’t know what it costs where other people live, but $40,000 would pay for a full-ride at a state university for someone. It’s just a question of priorities.

  41. ahwannabe says:

    He’s lucky he wasn’t beaten to death by the other passengers.

  42. Peeved Guy says:

    @joemama321: I was careful in choosing my words. Between the stories we see on this site about some TSA agents acting like power-hungry tools and those that cite the miserable failure of those same agents being able to spot potentially dangerous items is passengers carry on bags (bombs, mind you, not the 3.00001 oz. of liquid you mention), they have to do something to make people feel safe. Otherwise the entire airline industry would tank (worse than is already is). And that would be a crushing blow for the US economy. I personally believe that the majority of the flying public does not want to analyze their security while flying too much, so they see stuff like this and feel safer because, they locked up the bad guy and checked my shoes for explosives.

    So what to do when real change can’t (or won’t) be effected? Pound your chest and act like a big man when some dumbass is stupid enough to act like this on an airplane. And, like I said before, who flies nowadays and thinks its acceptable to act like this? I mean, really.

  43. brainologist says:

    No one else finds it ironic he was flying on an airline with the initials “AA”? No one? Okay, carry on then…

  44. JiminyChristmas says:

    @Peeved Guy: Yeah, you’re right. We should all just play our bit parts in whichever episode of Security Theater we appear in.

  45. Peeved Guy says:

    @JiminyChristmas: Um, what?

  46. ianmac47 says:

    @jamar0303: Okay, so you can’t kick him out. But first, its also not as if he could have gotten liquored up without the assistance of the flight crew– on the ground there are plenty of other sources of alcohol, and no one is confiscating liquids before you enter a bar. Second, a night in city lockup and a disorderly persons ticket on the ground should not translate to 20 years in prison just because you are 35,000 feet in the air. A first time DUI doesn’t usually lead to the sort of jail time this guy got in his PLEA.

  47. savvy999 says:

    @JiminyChristmas: I generally agree with what you’re saying, but

    no matter how obnoxious he is, a drunken jackass isn’t going to kill a planeload of people.

    isn’t entirely accurate. A drunk moron can still open up an emergency door in the cabin if he really got PO’d and tried. It may not bring down the plane, but unbelted passengers (esp kids) could get sucked out the door, etc.

    A drunk on a plane not behaving himself is dangerous to others, much more so than at a bar on the ground. The penalties should be stiffer.

    I literally think he should have been tasered and zip-tied into a seat and then arrested upon landing at the normal destination.

  48. iskandertime says:

    Being drunk doesn’t automatically turn a person into a butt-grabbing wall pounder. He still had the choice to just go to sleep or act a little less crazy. It says he got the drinks from two different flight attendants, I’ll bet he got one drink, downed it in one gulp, hid the evidence, and asked another attendant for the next one. Drunks are crafty. I live in Maine, and the Bangor airport is the first one in the US if you fly over the arctic from Europe, so a lot of disruptive passengers end up arrested on the tarmac and spent the night in jail there.

  49. bbbici says:


    First of all, you will not get blown out of a plane if a door opens, even if you are standing unrestrained fairly close. That is a proven myth.

    Secondly, I fail to see how he is more dangerous in a plane, where he does not have access to weapons nor room to maneuver, rather than a bar where he can hit people with beer bottles, chairs, etc.

    Thirdly, tasers are no joke and are not for gaining compliance for minor infractions. They regularly kill people and are for offenders who are threatening their own or others’ lives. Ass grabbing and obnoxiousness are not threats to anyone’s life.

    The pilot should have come out and had a discussion with the idiot. People have more respect for “officers”.

    If I were a passenger, I might even request compensation from AA for inconveniencing me for a minor disturbance.

  50. SybilDisobedience says:

    @tmccartney: I disagree with you, and I’ll tell you why: AA (and every other airline that serves libations) make a lot of money off those little alcoholic drinks. They didn’t make a dime when people smoked, so the ban on that vice didn’t cost them much of anything. But if they banned alcohol on flights, then they couldn’t charge you $7 for 4 oz. of vodka, and if there’s anything an airline likes, it’s charging exorbitant rates for very little work.

  51. banmojo says:

    it’s well established that alcohol can effect people much differently at altitude (even with cabin pressure on) than at ground, so I’d say if this Canuck gets himself a good lawyer he’ll be able to weasel his way outta this one. Eh?

  52. PølάrβǽЯ says:

    I’m sorry, but I have to blame AA here. Seven drinks to an already obviously intoxicated passenger? Not only is that illegal (at least in the state where the flight took off from (I live there)), but just plumb stupid.

  53. JiminyChristmas says:

    @Peeved Guy: ‘Security theater’ is often used to describe the work of the TSA, point being that most of what they do is a production put on to make you feel safe, instead of really, objectively safer. I inferred from your comment that you thought this was worthwhile, or at least understandable. Apologies if I somehow missed the line between snark and sincerity in there somewhere.

  54. Peeved Guy says:

    @JiminyChristmas: No. That was what I getting at, just never heard of it referred to by that moniker before (security theater). Thanks for the education.

  55. Trai_Dep says:

    AA should have learned what club owners around the world accept as gospel: enforce a dress code to weed out many of the bleeders.

    Maybe Virgin will be the first to enforce a “Dress to Impress” code?

  56. savvy999 says:

    @bbbici: I stand corrected on that. Apparently it is hard if not impossible to open a cabin door way up in the air [www.straightdope.com]

    I still stand by my assertion that unruly passengers who harrass other passengers or staff can and should be subdued (if not by reason, then by force) and restrained. This isn’t a bar where he can get tossed outside, it’s a confined aluminum tube with a lot of other paying passengers. Behave or get tazed, bro.

  57. mycroft2000 says:

    @savvy999: Because of the interior/exterior pressure difference, it would be impossible for Hulk Hogan to open an exit door at altitude.

    @DePaulBlueDemon: Why “just kidding” about Valium? Anti-anxiety medication is perfect for nervous flyers. I never leave the ground without some Xanax in me.

  58. ccouvillion says:

    @aaron8301: Actually, it’s against Federal regulations.
    FAR Title 14 Part 91.17(b) states:
    “Except in an emergency, no pilot of a civil aircraft may allow a person who appears to be intoxicated or who demonstrates by manner or physical indications that the individual is under the influence of drugs (except a medical patient under proper care) to be carried in that aircraft.”

  59. whatNameIsLeft says:

    For all the people coming down on the airline for serving him drinks just remember “you don’t [deleted] decide how much vodka he can drink”

  60. rjhiggins says:

    Interesting comments. I constantly see Consumerist commenters talk about “personal responsibility.” Yet in this case most of you want to blame the airline.

    He was obviously not so drunk that he didn’t manage to order from multiple flight attendants, knowing that ordering from a single attendant would attract attention. You can’t blame each attendant for serving him a few drinks.

    Once he started putting his hands on other people and banging on the walls he became a risk — not of bring down the plane but certainly getting into a fight and injuring other passengers and/or crew. At that point it was time to get him off the plane. If they had continued the flight, and he had hauled off and punched someone, then AA would have certainly been open to liability for not taking action. And of course they would be criticized roundly here for that.

  61. jamesdenver says:


    2 and a half actually.

  62. pigeonpenelope says:

    he was apparently intoxicated before he boarded. aa should have stopped him from riding. at the very least, he should have been cut off from alcohol. yes, this guy should take responsibility for his actions. he should not have gotten drunk as any idiot knows it is illegal to be drunk on a plane. aa has responsibility too. they fed him alcohol even after he was visibly drunk.

  63. Skiffer says:

    @mycroft2000: Ummm… planes are pressurized…hence, Montgomery Burns could open an exit door at altitude…

  64. Skiffer says:

    @Skiffer: Ahhh…in, not out…I stand corrected…

  65. thalia says:

    A total asshole, but…up to 20 years in prison? Ouch. No wonder we don’t have any room for the real criminals.

  66. akalish says:

    Now that you’ve read of this incident, go and watch the film “Canadian Bacon.” Perpare to laugh very, very hard. :D

  67. zibby says:

    Give the guy a break. He had heard a false rumor that the Tragically Hip were breaking up and he was trying to drown his sorrows.

  68. Pherdnut says:

    I sometimes forget that Canada has jerks too.

  69. Canadianman11 says:

    I would love to meet this man and shake his hand. He is now my hero. Also, I know for a fact that the pilots could have had a sense of humor about it and opt for the easir, cheaper way out. They could’ve just lowered the cabin pressure slightly. Keep in mind, I am a licensed pilot. I know the effects and have talked to former and current airline pilots. This strategy works out extremely well in cross continent and ocean flights, as people have more time to gave fun. Once the pressure is lowered, the alcohol has a larger effect on the body, which can turn a buzz to a haze, and a haze to being passed out. The pressure only needs to be lowered an extra 1/2 to 1 atmosphere for this to take place. After the intended subject is disabled, the pressure is returned to normal.

  70. Spooty says:

    A followup. He wound up getting “time served” in jail (5 months), plus deportation and some other minor things.
    Not a bad sentence, IMO.


  71. Rob Boucher says:

    @savvy999: when you come from a place where the only real after-work activity is to drink, things kinda go downhill pretty fast.