How much is the embarrassment of being needlessly arrested in front of a plane full of passengers at the end of a transcontinental flight worth? Plenty, if a Université Laval tax professor wins a legal suit against Air Transat.
A year ago, Jean-Richard Laurence was on a flight home from France with his son when he decided to uncork one of several bottles of his favourite plonk that he’d purchased in Paris.
The reason, he explains in the suit he recently filed with Quebec Superior Court, was that “the meals and wine served by the airline are always minables [pitiful].”
Despite being informed by a flight attendant that passengers on commercial flights were prohibited from consuming their own alcohol, Laurence admits that he refused to refrain from drinking the glass of wine he’d already poured from his bottle.
The situation then deteriorated to the point where the aircraft’s captain intervened. Laurence was ordered to hand over not just the glass and bottle, but his carry-on baggage and passport.
He was later arrested and escorted from the plane by a half-dozen police and customs officials at Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport in Montreal, as his child and some 200 passengers looked on.
He was later released after customs officials apparently concluded that he had committed no infraction by drinking his own wine — an opinion that Laurence said was shared by legal colleagues he consulted after the incident.
Laurence is suing Air Transat for $175,000 for what he calls his “abusive” and “needless” arrest, which he says resulted in him and his son being “embarrassed, humiliated, and profoundly injured.”