An airline passenger accused of becoming unruly, holing up in the lavatory after downing five small bottles of wine, has been charged with interfering with a flight crew.
Authorities say Muhammad Abu Tahir of Glen Allen, Virginia, became disruptive on an AirTran Airways flight from Atlanta to San Francisco last Friday. Two military jets were sent to tail the plane, and the captain diverted the flight to Colorado Springs, Colo.
Tahir, a permanent U.S. resident originally from Pakistan, had an interpreter in his native Urdu language with him Wednesday in federal court. He did not enter a plea. He could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.
The plane was one of two flights diverted the same day amid fears about security stemming from the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas Day.
The incident began when Tahir asked for more wine after downing three mini-bottles, according to an FBI agent's affidavit. Initially refused, he was then given a fourth bottle, and then a fifth.
Authorities said he went to the lavatory, opening the door to place his shoes and socks outside and again to reveal he was shaving with no shirt on. The affidavit said he refused requests to leave, yelling that he was being disrespected, grabbed the arms of a flight attendant who tried to calm him.
Authorities said Tahir stayed in the bathroom when the plane landed.