When a passenger aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH122 allegedly threatened others on board, prompting an hours-long standoff that ended in his arrest, the captain decided to turn the plane around and head back to Sydney.

Unruly passengers are becoming increasingly common worldwide, with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) saying airlines and governments alike are concerned by the increasing frequency and severity of incidents involving violence against crew and passengers.

Video footage from aboard the Kuala Lumpur-bound flight allegedly shows the disruptive passenger standing in the aisle shouting “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?”.

Australian police alleged the man claimed to have had explosives on board.

The 45-year-old was arrested after the plane landed safely in Sydney, and has been charged with making a false statement about threatening to damage a division-three aircraft, and not complying with cabin crew instructions.

Flight Attendants Association of New Zealand (FAANZ) president Craig Featherby said a captain may decide to divert to the closest airport if there is a significant safety concern or emergency situation on board.

“This could include situations such as a medical emergency, disruptive passenger behaviour that poses a threat to others, or any other circumstance that jeopardises the wellbeing of passengers and crew. The decision to divert, in consultation with the appropriate authorities, would be made to ensure the safety and security of everyone on board.”

The disruptive passenger on the Malaysia Airlines flight was arrested in what police described as an emergency incident.

Velutha Parambath/AP

The disruptive passenger on the Malaysia Airlines flight was arrested in what police described as an emergency incident.

In a typical scenario, aviation expert Irene King said the most senior flight attendant would alert the captain via the secure onboard crew communication system, and brief them on the severity of the situation.

The threat assessment would then be transmitted to the airline’s operations team, who would make a call on whether restraining the unruly passenger would address the issue.

On the Malaysia Airlines flight, the disruptive passenger must have been deemed “a serious threat to life and limb”, King said.

“In the specific instance, the threat was deemed to only be safely addressed by returning to the point of origin, which was closer than the destination. Returning to the point of origin also probably meant that passengers’ concerns and disruption could best be addressed.”

Australian legislation surrounding unruly passengers and whether or not the disruptive passenger held an Australian passport may also have been taken into account, she said.

Crew members are trained to deal with unruly passengers and usually manage to talk them down, but they have the power to restrain them if need be, which is why handcuffs are carried on board.

“Ninety-nine percent of the time, cabin crew defuse the situations onboard by simply listening and calmly reiterating instruction,” Featherby said.

King said most unruly passengers are drunk or high on drugs and, in those cases, “the resort to handcuffing is fairly quick”.

Featherby said crew will involve local and security authorities if necessary.

“Crew will take any necessary measures to protect the safety of the passengers and aircraft,” he said.

“Cabin crew are highly trained safety professionals and are trained to defuse situations as they arise onboard. Each airline is different, however crew have the appropriate training and resources to assist in defusing any situation that puts customers at risk.”

Malaysia Airlines confirmed the captain of flight MH122 made the decision to return to Sydney “in the interest of safety” because of a “disruptive passenger” on board.

A spokesperson for the airline said the safety and comfort of passengers were of “utmost importance”, and that the aircraft would be inspected by police.

While penalties for disruptive behaviour differ between countries and even airlines, consequences may include large fines, bans from flying with the airline in question, legal action, and even jail time.

In New Zealand, airlines include processes to deal with disruptive passengers in their safety management procedures, Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) deputy chief aviation safety, David Harrison, said.

The Civil Aviation Act says unruly passengers offences include disruptive conduct towards a crew member, interference with an aircraft, being intoxicated, and offensive behaviour or words.

“If a passenger does not follow crew commands, this can be investigated by the CAA under part 65J (of the Civil Aviation Act) and taken to court where a fine is applicable upon a conviction being made.”

While penalties for disruptive behaviour differ between countries and even airlines, consequences may include large fines, bans from flying with the airline in question, legal action, and even jail time.

In New Zealand, a person who acts in a manner that endangers an aircraft or any person on an aircraft may be fined up to $10,000 or be sentenced to up to two years in prison.

Featherby sought to reassure Kiwi travellers concerned by the Malaysia Airlines incident by saying most passengers are well-behaved, and that crew are well-equipped to deal with troublemakers.

“What is important to remember when flying on any airline, particularly here in New Zealand, is that while these occurrences do occur, the travelling public are overall respectful to flight attendants, and most importantly, when travelling you have well-trained safety professionals in the air and on the ground to prevent and protect you should these incidents occur.”

Article source: https://airlines.einnews.com/article/649964188/ppMoGjojGe4Ke3fZ?ref=rss&ecode=vaZAu9rk30b8KC5H

Leave a Reply