SYDNEY AIRPORT: Passenger arrested after making threats on Malaysian Airlines flight
On Monday, 14 August, flight Malaysian Airlines MH122 on an Airbus A330 took off from Sydney Airport at 1:05 pm. It was heading to Kuala Lumpur and expecting to arrive by 8 pm. The flight, carrying 194 passengers, returned to Sydney after an onboard incident, arriving at 3:47 pm Sydney time. The flight was diverted about an hour and a half into the flight while over north-west New South Wales.
Content of this Post:
Reports on Social Media about Malaysian Airlines flight
Social media and newspaper reports indicate that an agitated 45-year-old male passenger disrupted the flight. He left his seat and shouted:
“My name is Mohammed, slave of Allah.” … “Are you a slave of Allah? Are you? Say it! Say it! Are you a slave of Allah?”SMH
The A330 was held on a taxiway south of the main north-south runway, away from terminals and other aircraft. Cabin staff managed the incident on the plane. They succeeded in de-escalating the situation and clearing passengers from around the disturbed man. Australian Federal Police boarded the plane and escorted passengers to busses. Passengers were transported to the main airport building, and were given hotel vouchers.
The disruptive passenger was removed from the flight and was expected to be arrested.
As a safety precaution, Sydney Airport reduced operations to one runway. 32 (16 inbound and 16 outbound) flights were cancelled, while many other flights experienced significant delays. It is expected that flights today, 15 August, will not experience any disruption due to the incident.
Australian Federal Police (AFP) statement
The AFP said the 45-year-old man was arrested without incident.
“There is no impending threat to the community.”AFP Statement
The AFP says that an emergency response plan was implemented. Passengers were evacuated once it was judged safe to do so.
Passenger complaints about Malaysian Airlines and AFP
Some passengers have been critical of how long it took to calm the passenger, arrest him and evacuate the plane. It is also reported that it took 3 hours after landing for the police to enter the plane. Those on board also praised the cabin staff for calming the man and actively de-escalating the incident.
On social media, passengers complained:
“We landed back in Sydney at about 3:45. We are STILL on the plane with this guy. Who has arced up again and tried to take on a passenger who stood up to him. Lord help us if we ever have a more serious incident,”
“… Captain came over intercom saying the authorities are still formulating a plan to get us off the plane safely … lucky we’re not on fire, we’d all be toast by the time the talking heads got their shit together.”
“I’m on MH122 now and have zero idea where the hell is the police … there is zero sign of security forces around. Is their plan just to wait till he falls asleep?”Reported on ABC News website
No one was injured, luckily, and no other international flights were cancelled or delayed.
I cannot imagine how stressful this would have been for the passengers onboard. I have great, sympathy for their frustration at the delay. Any reasonable person wants to flee danger. That said, sometimes a softly, softly approach which results in passengers being safe is best. As opposed to the ‘fight’ response of entering with all guns metaphorically blazing.
Congratulations to the Malaysian Airlines staff for maintaining their composure and dealing with the situation safely. The same goes for the AFP, and largely for the passengers who mostly kept their heads. There is a report of one passenger trying to take on the offender, which apparently didn’t help the situation.
Approaching these type of incidents as a mental health episode is sometimes best. Not all such incidents are attempted hijackings.
[note featured image is a Malaysian Airlines A330 parked at Muscat Airport in Oman]