A Virgin Atlantic flight from Hong Kong to London was forced to turn back after a passenger attempted to yank open the aircraft’s door mid-flight, a source at the airline has revealed.
The plane had travelled about 1,000km on Monday morning when a 26-year old British man began shouting and attempted to pull open the cabin door, forcing staff to restrain him in his seat.
When he refused to calm down the crew took the decision to return to Hong Kong so as not to subject other passengers to hours of disruption, the source said.
Flight VS201, which was carrying 240 passengers and 16 crew members, was forced to dump fuel on the way back in order to make a safe landing.
A Virgin Atlantic spokeswoman declined to comment on the details of the incident, saying it was a matter of aviation safety.
Chris Beebe, general secretary of the Hong Kong Airline Pilots Association, said that the chances of a disruptive passenger being able to open the cabin door were very unlikely, due to the air pressure inside the plane.
The former US Airways pilot, with 33 years of experience, said the force needed to pull open the door in mid-air would be similar to that needed to push a double-decker bus on the ground.
Cabin doors are designed to open in and then out and “not like your standard entry door,” he said.
“These doors are even safer because they are slightly larger than the frame, and that’s how it forms a very good seal in the cabin.”
The disruptive passenger, who was detained by police upon arrival at Hong Kong International Airport, was sent to Princess Margaret Hospital for a medical check, where he remained on Tuesday.
A police source earlier said: "He was accused of singing, shouting and waving his hands in his seat. He allegedly pushed away a flight attendant while being asked to calm down."
A police spokeswoman said the case was still being investigated and a decision on whether he will face charges of violating the Aviation Security Ordinance had not yet been made yet.
The incident is likely to cost Virgin hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong dollars in wasted fuel, salaries, airport costs, passenger accommodation and a rescheduled flight.
The remaining passengers left Hong Kong for London last night.