A passenger affected by pain medication caused a hijack scare on a Virgin Australia flight to Denpasar on April 25 when he allegedly knocked on the flightdeck door thinking it was a lavatory.
The pilots of VA41, a 737 with 139 passengers on board flying from Brisbane to the Indonesian resort island, ‘squawked’ the internationally recognised hijack transponder code of 7500 when about 30 minutes from landing. The action meant Indonesian authorities closed the airport for almost an hour causing 13 flights to be diverted or delayed while the situation was resolved.
Upon landing, the flight was directed to a remote part of the airport and was surrounded by security vehicles, and the passenger was escorted off the aircraft in handcuffs and under heavy guard. The aircraft then proceeded to a normal gate for deplaning.
When questioned by local police, the passenger said he had consumed only some pain medication and two cola drinks before the flight, and had woken up disoriented after several hours sleep and had a panic attack.
“This has been a huge misunderstanding,” the passenger said after being released from observation in a Bali hospital. “I had a panic attack and I just wanted to use the toilet and I made an accident [sic] by knocking on the cockpit door.”
But passengers on board the flight reportedly said he had already disturbed other passengers earlier in the flight and had been asked to sit down on a number of occasions.
“At Virgin Australia, our first priority is to ensure the highest standard of safety for our guests and crew at all times. International protocols require that when an individual attempts to enter the cockpit unlawfully and against the will of the operating crew on board, the unlawful interference code is entered to notify Air Traffic Control of the perceived threat. This is used by all airlines internationally to ensure the safety of passengers, crew and the aircraft,” the airline said in an April 27 statement.
“The captain and crew ensured the highest level of safety was maintained on flight VA41 and followed standard operating procedures. The captain was then in regular communication with air traffic control in line with correct protocols to keep them informed of the status of the disturbance prior to landing.”
The passenger was not charged with an offence by Indonesian authorities, and was reportedly being returned to Brisbane on Monday afternoon.