Charter Airline Ordered to Pay $27 Million

HARTFORD, Connecticut (AP) -- A jury ordered a charter airline company to pay $27 million (euro21 million) to a woman for failing to keep her ex-husband from taking her children out of the country.

Nina Streeter of Topsfield, Massachusetts, sued Cincinnati, Ohio-based Executive Jet Management after her ex-husband paid the company $160,000 (euro123,983) to fly him and the couple's two children to Egypt on short notice.

Streeter alleged that Executive Jet Management failed to maintain adequate safeguards against abductions, such as asking both parents to sign consent forms before flying children abroad.

The case was heard in Connecticut because the flight took off from Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks in August 2001; Streeter and her children were reunited in June 2003.

Executive Jet Management will appeal the judgment, said spokeswoman Ginnell Schiller. She declined to comment on specific allegations in the lawsuit.

''Executive Jet Management complies fully with all government laws and regulations and operates under the identical applicable protocol as the major air carriers,'' Schiller said, reading from a statement.

Jurors, who heard the case in a Waterbury court, awarded $10 million (euro7.8 million) for negligence and aiding custodial interference and $17 million (euro13.2 million) for the 22 months Streeter spent apart from her children.

''She was certainly thrilled with the result and hopes that it sends a message to the private charter industry,'' said Streeter's attorney, Barry Pollack.

The lawsuit also named Streeter's ex-husband, Anwar Wissa Jr., but that case is being handled separately.

Streeter and Wissa were entangled in a custody battle when Wissa took the children to Egypt. He later demanded millions of dollars from Streeter in exchange for the children's safe return, according to court documents.

Streeter hired a private investigator and learned the children and their father living on a yacht off Havana. Cuban authorities arrested Wissa and returned the children to Streeter.