Passengers traveling on a Qantas 17-hour non-stop flight from Perth to London, the longest flight in the world, have showered praise on the pilot who turned the plane around after two hours in the air when a passenger barricaded himself in the bathroom.
The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, which took off from Perth at 7:03 pm local time and was expected to land at 10:54 pm in London, was back in Perth two hours after take-off. The disruptive passenger was reportedly taken off the plane in handcuffs and a mask by police. He faces a fine of more than $60,000 for the disruption.
Last March, a passenger who forced flight from Perth to Brisbane in July 2017 to turn around after he mixed Xanax with alcohol was ordered to pay $25,700 in fines and reparations to Qantas. The passenger, Luke Taylor, 39, was allegedly aggressive towards the crew when he was informed that he could not consume any additional alcohol unless a flight attendant agreed to serve him.
A passenger on the Perth to London flight, Christine Kohli, told ABC, the cabin crew had requested that passengers help in trying to calm the man down.
“They did ask for some assistance from some male passengers, and some passengers went and helped him. I understand he was restrained down the back of the plane,” she said. “I think the aircrew were marvelous, they were very in control of the situation, they were calming passengers. They were very, very supportive. They got him down to the back of the plane quite quickly. It was clear he was quite an unwell man.”
Clare Hudson, who was traveling with her husband and three-month-old baby, told ABC, “He locked himself in the loo for about an hour. Then when he came out, first of all, we heard some shouting, we were about three or four rows in front of where it happened.”
“Then he was squaring off against another passenger and sort of shouting in his face. It looked like it was going to turn into a brawl. Eventually, they managed to calm him down and get him back in his seat. He seemed really wired and agitated,” she added. “One of the cabin crew, one of the ladies, I think was a bit upset. But for us, luckily, we were far enough away that we didn’t feel threatened. I think some of the passengers probably would have been quite scared.”
Flight Tracker showed the flight turned around near Shark Bay. The non-stop flight service was launched in March and is considered a major milestone in Australian aviation history since its the first non-stop flight from Australia to the UK.
The British Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) reports that the flights have had only around 78 percent occupancy, which has prompted Qantas to deny that the service was not performing as expected. In a statement to news.com.au last month, a Qantas spokesperson said, “Our London-Perth route is performing well — it is definitely exceeding our expectations.”
The Perth-London service starts in Melbourne and stops in Perth before flying to London. Though the flight is scheduled for 17 hours, Qantas has already broken speed records on two occasions.
When the new service was launched, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said the airline had issued a challenge to Airbus and Boeing to design a plane able to fly directly to Heathrow and New York from Sydney and Melbourne.
“And we’re getting close,” Joyce said. “By the end of this year, we’ll know if both aircraft can do it. It’s not that far away and the opportunity for all of us in that is quite massive.”