June 18, 2018
World

‘Flight from hell’: Passenger who ‘threatened to kill airline staff’ forces Virgin plane to land

Related Story: Would-be hijacker jailed for bomb threat on Melbourne to Malaysia flight

Passengers on board a Virgin Australia flight from Melbourne to Perth overnight have described a "flight from hell" after they were diverted to Adelaide when a woman allegedly began threatening to kill people.

A witness told the ABC it was a little over an hour into the journey of VA697 when the passenger began wailing and shouting: "Get me off this f***ing plane, don't f***ing come near me, I can't breathe".

When airline stewards tried to calm the woman, she threatened to kill people if they did not stop the plane.

The flight was diverted to Adelaide and, upon landing, five Australian Federal Police officers boarded the aircraft and escorted the woman off.

Her baggage was then removed and inspected before the plane was refuelled and continued to Perth.

An AFP spokesman said the woman was currently assisting police with enquiries but no charges had yet been laid.

Flight was already running late

The flight, which had been due to leave Melbourne around 8:30pm, had already been delayed by an hour due to poor weather and by the time it landed in Perth at 3:15am, it was four hours late.

"[It was a] flight from hell," a passenger told the ABC. "A four-and-a-half-hour flight looks like being a seven- to eight-hour flight."

The ABC was told many including children were frightened by the woman's behaviour, while others were incredibly frustrated.

A Virgin Australia spokeswoman apologised to passengers for the inconvenience.

"The safety of our guests and crew is always our number one priority," she said.

"As a result of a disruptive passenger onboard Virgin Australia flight VA697 from Melbourne to Perth, the captain made the decision to divert to Adelaide and the passenger was removed from the aircraft by the Australian Federal Police.

"The aircraft has since landed in Perth this morning and we apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused guests."

It comes after a Sri Lankan man was sentenced to 12 years in prison in Australia for threatening to detonate a bomb on a flight from Melbourne bound for Malaysia in 2017.

That flight was forced to return to Melbourne and, when police tactical response officers boarded the aircraft, they found that what Manodh Marks had said was a bomb was in fact a portable speaker.

The court heard he was in a drug-induced psychosis at the time.

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