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The Globe and Mail

Ex-RIM exec whose drunken antics caused plane diversion deported

One of the two Research in Motion Ltd. executives whose drunken antics aboard a Toronto-Beijing flight forced the plane to land in Vancouver has been deported from Canada.

Both men, who were vice-presidents for the BlackBerry maker, were fired following the incident – which cost Air Canada $221,606 and embarrassed many RIM employees who were working hard to orchestrate a turnaround at the struggling Waterloo, Ont.-based tech giant.

The Nov. 28, 2011, incident attracted so much attention not just because it played into the negative narrative surrounding RIM, but because of the sensational details. The men, who had been drinking before and during the flight and had taken sleeping pills, were so rowdy they had to be roped down with plastic ties – and one of them even chewed his way free. They were then restrained with tape.

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George Campbell, 46, who was born in Scotland, was in Canada on a work permit. He was deported after his dismissal.

A father of three who earned $144,000 in net annual income, he has found work in his native land in a similar position.

The other man, Paul Alexander Wilson, 39, who was also born in Scotland, has permanent residency status in Canada.

A father of one who earned $120,000 in net annual income, he has since done short-term contract work for a Taiwanese company but otherwise has had trouble finding work because of the notoriety of the incident.

Details of what happened to the infamous duo, who both pleaded guilty to mischief, are outlined in a judgment of the Court of Appeal of British Columbia granting them leave to appeal their sentences. The ruling was made on Jan. 25 but escaped media notice until recently.

The court was told that the two face "a significant civil suit from Air Canada and … suffered considerable shame over their behaviour. In addition, they spend two nights in custody."

Mr. Campbell, according to court evidence, began singing and banging on his own seat and started to swear and yell at other passengers while kicking their seats. He even laid down on his stomach and began kicking the floor "much like a child in a temper tantrum," before Mr. Wilson tried to get out of his seat and instead fell forward into a flight attendant and another passenger. Mr. Wilson also pushed a flight attendant, the ruling says.

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Both men were then restrained with plastic ties, but the pair then "became more aggressive and engaged in verbal and threatening behaviour in an effort to have the restraints removed," leading several other passengers to switch seats. The Air Canada captain said that in 38 years of flying he had never seen anything like it – and one of the flight attendants took a stress leave because of the incident.

As the situation grew more intense, it was decided that the crew should divert the flight to Anchorage, Alaska, but eventually the decision was made to divert the flight back over to Vancouver – where the RCMP became involved. In all, about 507 people on two Air Canada flights were issued $100 vouchers for the inconvenience and the airline had to pay passengers for meal vouchers ($7,750) as well as hotel costs ($13,307).

The court was given a breakdown of the costs generated by the incident, which included $75,475 in extra fuel, $42,200 in pay for the crew and $2,560 in navigation service.

The two men were ordered by the court to pay $71,757 between them – or $35,878 each – but the court of appeal reduced each of the restitution orders to about $10,528, at least in part because the decision by Air Canada to award vouchers was "a good-will gesture" that did not "fall within the definition of damage, loss or destruction of property."

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