20 September 2000

Sacked BA pilot 'mortified' passengers by shouting at woman

By Matt Adams

Passengers on a British Airways jumbo jet were "mortified" when the captain shouted at a woman passenger who claimed a fellow traveller was carrying a bomb, an employment tribunal was told yesterday.

Captain Stuart Clapson stormed out of the cockpit to speak to the woman after announcing over the public address system that a "stupid woman had ruined their holidays" by causing the flight to Barbados from Gatwick to be delayed, the tribunal at Croydon, south London,
was told. Captain Clapson was sacked by BA and he is claiming unfair dismissal and breach of contract.

The plane was about to take off on 26 October last year when the woman, 59, told cabin staff she was nervous about a passenger sitting near by in the club class section of the jet, which was carrying 400 people. She told the cabin services director, Peter Greenham, that she feared the man was holding a bomb.

When Captain Clapson made a routine check to see if the plane was fit to take off, Mr Greenham said it was not, and asked that it should return to its stand where the woman should be taken off. Captain Clapson agreed, and then made his PA announcement, the
tribunal was told, saying: "A stupid lady is spoiling all your holidays. I am going to get her off the aircraft and get the police who are going to arrest her and put her in jail."

When the aircraft had stopped, Captain Clapson then left the cockpit to speak to the woman. The tribunal heard an interview with the plane's purser, Mandy Gurden-Salter, who said: "He came down, saying, 'Where is she, where is she?' The lady was very shocked. She was crying."

Mr Greenham said that passengers were "mortified" by Captain Clapson's actions, who he felt had "totally over-reacted".

In his own statement, Captain Clapson said he felt the woman had "tried to incite panic among other passengers". He said he was "very firm" but did not over-react. He also denied making the initial PA announcement claimed by cabin staff.

The tribunal was adjourned until today.