A woman branded a “drunk Karen” after she was booted off a Gold Coast flight became the “internet’s No.1 star” because of the vicious social media attention she received, a court has been told.
Erica Jayne Carlson achieved online infamy after she was filmed being escorted off a Jetstar flight bound for Victoria earlier this year.
The footage captured passengers cheering and singing the tune of Steam’s 1969 hit Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye) as uniformed police surrounded Carlson, 42.
But Southport Magistrates Court was on Monday told the real reason she became belligerent with airline staff was because she did not want to pay for another ticket.
Carlson’s lawyer Michael McMillan said the accompanying social media fallout had a “gigantic” impact on the single mum of two.
“She was the internet’s No.1 star,” Mr McMillan said of the international media coverage that ensued from the confrontation.
Erica Jayne Carlson was filmed being escorted off the plane after she became disorderly before the flight took off. Picture: Supplied / TikTok
Carlson, 42, pleaded guilty to a single Commonwealth charge of behaving in an offensive or disorderly manner on an aircraft.
The charge carries a maximum penalty of a $13,750 fine.
The court was told flight JQ361 from the Gold Coast to Avalon Airport in Victoria was ready to take off on January 8, 2023, when the altercation unfolded.
Carlson was due to fly into the southern state to see her two boys, who were staying with their father.
A cabin crew member observed Carlson “fall into her seat” and believed she was intoxicated, legal officer Kate Thomson said.
The cabin crew member formed the opinion that Carlson was not fit to fly and asked her to leave the plane.
Carlson (centre) avoided a conviction after entering a recognisance order of $1500. She was also ordered to be of good behaviour for nine months. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Blake Antrobus
Ms Thomson said Carlson repeatedly refused and became argumentative, filming the confrontation as Federal Police officers were called.
Footage uploaded to TikTok – accompanied with the text “When there is a drunk Karen on board” – captured officers dragging the 42-year-old from her seat during the incident.
One person is heard quipping “five coppers … we could have all done it for free” as others laugh and film the encounter on their phones.
Another is heard joking: “Come on mum, get off.”
Mr McMillan explained the infamous footage began upon federal police entering the plane and did not capture his client’s altercation.
He said the “miscommunication” with the flight staff escalated after Carlson became upset that she might not be able to fly again unless she paid for another ticket.
Police were called after Carlson refused to get off the plane despite multiple requests from cabin crew members. Picture: Supplied / TikTok
Mr McMillan also said his client’s intoxication level was not taken after she was escorted off the plane despite the cabin crew’s initial opinion of her.
The court was told Carlson had endured extra-curial punishment after footage of the altercation went viral – including with news sites in the UK and US.
“She has already endured an unhappy, unhealthy public spotlight,” Mr McMillan said.
“The only thing she says that didn’t make this the worst experience of her life is because she wasn’t named at the time.”
He said Carlson – who had no criminal history – risked losing her part-time job in Lennox Head because of the unwarranted publicity.
Magistrate Veena Goverdhan ordered Carlson to undertake a recognisance release order with a $1500 surety, allowing her to avoid a conviction.
She was ordered to be of good behaviour for nine months.