UPDATE: Malaysian Airlines and Sydney Airport plane scare: ‘We don’t storm planes. …It’s not the movies’ say police.
Just an update to the previous story about the Australian Federal Police and the Malaysian Airlines MH122 flight. It turned back to Sydney and hour and a half into the flight. A passenger had become unruly, and the crew tried de-escalating the situation. The plane was held for two hours at Sydney Airport before passengers were allowed to disembark.
Social media has been awash with criticism, some from the affected passengers themselves, lamenting the long weight and the lack of police action. This is understandable, and passengers must have been terrified, despite being removed from close proximity to the offending passenger.
The Police Commissioner, Karen Web, has made the following comments on 2GB on the Ben Fordham program:
“…The protocol in Australia is to negotiate. We don’t storm planes. We’re not TV. It’s not the movies. We want to protect the lives of all passengers.“Karen Web, NSW Police Commissioner
She went on to explain the police approach:
“The important thing is to try and defuse and not escalate the situation and so I praise the crew for what they did in in keeping the passengers calm, particularly the person who has been arrested now, to de-escalate this situation to the point that we got this matter resolved within three hours.”Karen Web, NSW Police Commissioner
Although she did recognise that the timing caused distress:
“I think three hours is is pretty good. I know it’s terrifying for those people on board and their families outside.”Karen Web, NSW Police Commissioner
According to her timeline, police were notified about 4:15 pm on Monday, and the incident was resolved by 6:15 pm. She also pointed out that police are always acting in these situations without knowing all the facts:
“… We didn’t know whether there was a bomb, [so AFP] had to work through all of those considerations in terms of what we’re really dealing with.”Karen Web, NSW Police Commissioner
When you are directly affected by a situation as the passengers on social media were, it’s often difficult to have the objective view that police, crew and cabin staff have to try and maintain in these incidents of severe stress.
The important thing is to ensure passengers are safe. In circumstances where you don’t know if there are additional participants on the plane or on the ground, or if its a hijack or bomb threat, caution and de-escalation are the watchwords.
Sometimes passengers have to trust the experts. Being a ‘Google expert’ just doesn’t wash when the rubber hits the road.