Drunk Australian sparks hijack fear on Virgin Australia flight to Bali

Aggressive Australian passenger arrested in Bali after sparking false alarm by banging on pilot's door of Virgin flight from Brisbane

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 April, 2014, 3:26pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 April, 2014, 1:35am


A drunk passenger sparked a hijack alert on a Virgin Australia flight heading for the Indonesian resort island of Bali yesterday when he attempted to break into the cockpit, officials said.

Members of the security forces rushed to the airport when the Boeing 737-800 touched down on the island, after the pilot reported the Brisbane to Bali flight had been hijacked.

Based on the report I received, the passenger tried to enter the cockpit

However, Virgin Australia said the drunken passenger had sparked a false alarm when he banged on the cockpit door. Indonesian authorities later arrested Matt Christopher Lockley, an Australian national.

"This is no hijacking, this is a miscommunication," said Heru Sudjatmiko, a Virgin Australia official in Bali. "What happened was there was a drunk person ... too much alcohol consumption caused him to act aggressively.

"Based on the report I received, the passenger tried to enter the cockpit … by banging on the door."

A flight attendant said Lockley had demanded medicine and started banging on the cockpit door, according to Bali police chief Benny Mokalu.

He was stopped by crew, handcuffed and placed in a seat at the back of the plane, which was carrying 137 passengers and seven crew, officials said.

After landing, the passenger, who was unarmed, was taken off the aircraft and detained.

Pictures showed Lockley, dressed in flip-flops, white shorts and a T-shirt, being taken away by heavily armed members of the Indonesian air force.

Transport ministry official Herry Bakti said the alert was triggered when the pilot sent a signal to Bali airport that the plane had been hijacked, and then followed up with a verbal confirmation.

A Virgin Australia spokeswoman said the pilot had entered the code for "unlawful interference", which was "standard operating procedure, based on the threat they perceived at the time". No passengers were hurt during the incident, officials said.

Palani Mohan, a passenger on a Garuda flight that was preparing to take off from Bali, said that when the drama began the pilot of his plane announced the airport was in lockdown.

"The captain of my plane made an announcement saying we were delayed indefinitely because a hijack was going on in Bali airport, about 150 metres away from us," he said.

"I saw at least five vehicles including military-style trucks, filled with men in uniform, rushing towards the plane.

"Then the Virgin plane taxied away, followed by the convoy of security forces."

The airport was shut down for about an hour but flights resumed after the Virgin plane was taken off the tarmac.

Cathay Pacific flight CX785 was re-routed to Surabaya, Indonesia, after the closure of the Bali airport, said Cissy Ho, a spokeswoman for Cathay Pacific. The flight later made its way to Bali once the airport reopened, she said.

Additional reporting by Christy Choi