Speculation continues over what really happened onboard Air France 228, from Paris to Buenos Aires, on October 29th. Live and Let’s Fly will never be a willing purveyor of “fake news” so let’s dig a bit deeper.
A passenger claims that Cedric Carayón, the man sitting next to her, unzipped his pants and started to pleasure himself with a pillow covering him. She complained to the crew, who at first denied her request for an upgrade to business class or even to move to another seat because every seat on the flight was full and because they witnessed nothing and the passenger denied the incident.
The woman refused to sit down and was eventually re-accomodated in a jump-seat reserved for crew members during takeoff and landing. Furthermore, she was given a tablet from the purser in which to immediately fill out a complaint form. When it came time to land, the crew asked her to return to her seat. She refused to move, but eventually did after she was threatened with arrest for failing to comply with crew member instructions.
Another twist. Apparently, the purser on the flight never reported the incident to the captain. Upon landing, the woman called her father (Ricardo Klass, a big-shot judge who dabbles in aviation law) and soon filed a complaint. Representing her daughter, Klass aggressively sought justice for his daughter and the Air France crew members were detained.
Detention in Buenos Aires
The purser, who failed to report the incident, alleges that he was held for 12 hours in a closet-size room without food and water and separated from his other Air France colleagues. Meanwhile, Argentinian authorities claim the prolonged detention was due to the requirement to procure translators who could effectively communicate in both French and Spanish.
After a second day of interrogation, all crew members were released. No charges were filed.
No charges have been filed against Carayón either. He denies masturbating onboard and also decries being undressed twice by Argentinian authorities while under detention. Carayón, a 37-year-old French national, was traveling to Argentina to take place in a model airplane competition, which he still participated in. He is scheduled to travel back to Paris on 11/25. It is now up to a local magistrate whether to prosecute him or not…he could conceivably still be detained, though there is no evidence or witnesses to bolster the story of either side. There would be no jail time, only a fine of up $12,000.
I don’t know what happened exactly. But I hold a much more skeptical opinion of the situation than Ben from No Mas Coach, who lacerates those for focusing on the upgrade request to business class.
First, I believe the passenger SHOULD have been threatened with arrest for defying the reasonable safety instructions of crew members. Jumpseats are for FAs upon landing, not passengers. A more diplomatic solution would have been to switch seats, placing another passenger, maybe a big burly man, in her original seat. But she could not remain in the jumpseat or stand for landing…she had to sit down.
Second, no charges were filed. Nothing against any of the crewmembers and nothing against Carayón, at least not yet. That’s telling to me. There were no witnesses to what happened onboard and without any sort of proof (I wonder if the Argentinian police demanded Carayón’s underwear for further study when they twice undressed him?) it would be unjust to charge him.
The Culpability of the Air France Crew
Third, I do feel bad for the Air France crew. I believe 12 hours of sitting in a police station was disproportionate to the crime. Even if Carayón admitted guilt, his punishment would be a $12,000 fine. The Air France crew was essentially jailed for a full day, arguably a far worse punishment. If Argentina does not have the resources to provide French translation, they could have summoned the crew once such resources were available. It’s not like the crew could have left the country without the explicit permission of authorities.
Should the purser be reprimanded for not reporting the crime to the Captain? Sure. But it appears he helped the accuser immediately fill out a customer service form. What more can you do when you se no evidence of wrongdoing and have what is essentially a he-said, she-said?
Fourth, I don’t mean to cast doubt upon the accuser. It may well have been exactly as she stated. And if that is the case, I can only imagine how angry I would be if someone did the same thing to my wife. But another narrative can be drawn. What if the woman wanted an upgrade and didn’t get one on a full flight? What if she made up a story to try to get one (a great upgrade tip)? When even that didn’t work, she had to stick with her story and enlisted the aid of her father, not just a well-connected judge, but a lawyer who has advised on airline cases before? This could all be a grand conspiracy.
Now I tend to think the woman was not lying, but we may never know unless Carayón confesses.
There’s a great deal of complexity to the case, and I want to get to the bottom of it. At this point, it is unclear to me who or what to believe, except that the detention of the Air France crew members was disproportionate to the offense alleged. I hope for justice in this case and will report back any updates.
Image: Aero Icarus / FLICKR