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Chocoholic flyers return amid hubbub

Passengers say unruly group that threatened attendant over chocolate was drunk; police meet plane but take no action; journey also featured wedding proposal

Illustrative photo of an Israir plane on the tarmac at Ben Gurion Airport, August 3, 2013 (Moshe Shai/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of an Israir plane on the tarmac at Ben Gurion Airport, August 3, 2013 (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Travelers who witnessed unruly passengers berating a steward mid-air over a chocolate bar called the in-flight experience “ugly,” as the group at the center of storm returned to Israel Monday morning.

The passengers dodged a media gathering awaiting them at Ben Gurion Airport Monday morning following a return flight from a weekend holiday to the Bulgarian resort town of Varna.

The plane was met by Israeli police upon landing, but officials said they would not take action against the group after they apologized, Ynet reported, and no arrests were made.

Israir officials mulled filing an official complaint to police on behalf of the stewards, but so far no actions have been taken. If indicted, the unruly passengers in the video could be served a maximum sentence of up to five years.

Bulgarian police questioned the passengers when they landed in Varna, but did not charge them with any crime.

The hurly-burly erupted into the press Sunday as a video emerged online appearing to show a female passenger standing and shouting at the steward for not heeding her demand for a chocolate bar from the duty-free cart while he was helping another passenger.

“You work for me, I paid for the flight, I want my chocolate,” she demands in the video.

“I want the chocolate!” she repeats, as another woman — apparently her sister — joined the fight and verbally abused the flight attendant as well.

Eventually a man joined in as well, threatening to hurt the attendant while the three hurl expletives as well as making anti-Arab statements.

“I don’t give a shit about you or Varna. Fuck your mother, you asshole,” the man is heard saying as he advances menacingly toward the steward.

Passengers described the group as unruly and drunk even before the flight.

“They got excessively drunk in the duty-free aisle of the boarding gate. They boarded drunk,” one passenger told the press Monday.

“It wasn’t possible to communicate with them. They wouldn’t stop screaming and swearing. Some travelers wanted to sleep. It wasn’t possible,” another passenger recounted. “This is another prime example of ‘the unruly Israeli’ phenomenon.”

Multiple travelers said that during the flight, rowdy passengers trashed the plane by dropping chewed seeds and nut shells over the aisles.

“We spent the next four days in the hotel in Varna shouting ‘Who wants chocolate?’ among ourselves as an inside joke.”

Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich said Sunday the behavior was indicative of the haughty sense of self-entitlement that some customers feel after paying for a service and called on viewers not to stand by idly as bystanders the next time they see somebody throwing a cocoa-fit.

“This is what happens when consumerism turns into religion,” she said, adding that in the eyes of the customers “workers undergo a process of dehumanization that turns them into nothing more than animals offering a service.”

“Me, me, me, I, I, I, my rights; that’s all they care about. What about the rights of others?” she asked.

The passenger who started the fracas told Channel 2 that she had apologized to the company. “Things were said that were not positive from both sides in the heat of the moment. We all apologized deeply to Israir and the passengers. Our trip was ruined, the disappointment is great and the lesson has been learned. We all feel bad.”

In spite of the pandemonium, the flight took a sweetly bizarre twist when one of the passengers proposed to his girlfriend, mid-air.

“When he stood up to make his announcement, I thought that he was going to ask for quiet. Then I realized that he was actually proposing,” the newly minted bride-to-be told Channel 2, adding that the flight was “extraordinary.”

In a statement, Israir pledged to do everything it could to uproot such behavior and guarantee security for its passengers.

“We are happy that this issue is in the public consciousness,” the statement read. “The phenomenon of violence against flight staffs is getting worse… Our job is to do everything to eradicate the phenomenon primarily for the security of the passengers and equipment on the flight.”

Lazar Berman contributed to this report

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