Man who disrupted flight ordered to pay $30,000

Posted: Wednesday, May 02, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A Chicago man was ordered Monday to pay $30,000 to United Airlines for disrupting a flight from Chicago to Hong Kong.

The plane had to be diverted to Anchorage Jan. 9 after Steven Tabloff spit at passengers, screamed obscenities and ripped a telephone from the hands of a flight attendant, authorities said.

Tabloff was originally charged with interfering with a flight crew, a felony that carries a maximum of 20 years in prison. But under a plea agreement, Tabloff pleaded guilty in March to misdemeanor assault.

''It baffles me as to what happened, but it did,'' Tabloff said Monday.

Tabloff apologized, and through his attorney he said his actions on Flight 895 cost him his job. He was employed by a Hong Kong business and was terminated after the incident. The news media have run wild with the story, he said.

''Well, understand there is a public concern,'' U.S. Magistrate Harry Branson told Tabloff.

Tabloff is one of several passengers during the past 15 months whose unruly and abusive actions have caused jetliners to make unplanned stops in Anchorage. Diverting the flights is expensive. It can include hotel bills, unplanned airport landing fees and dumping fuel.

On top of that, nothing is more disturbing than someone losing control thousands of feet in the air, Branson said.

''Sooner or later, airlines will realize they can't serve alcohol and expect this not to happen,'' he said.

Tabloff, through his attorney, offered his own explanation for what happened on Flight 895. He took a drug sample given to him by his physician, which was supposed to help him sleep on the long flight from Chicago to Hong Kong.

The packet contained two pills to be taken at different times during the flight. Tabloff took them both at the same time and had a few drinks.

He ended up being restrained by four passengers and eventually handcuffed, according to the FBI.

Branson ordered Tabloff to refrain from consuming alcohol and placed him on three years' probation. He was ordered to make payments of $10,000 each year for the next three years to United.

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