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Final straw – Qantas nonstop flight to London turns back

September 10, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

One of the world’s longest flights, the Qantas non-stop QF9 service from Perth to London – was forced on Saturday to turn back after a disruptive passenger started behaving “like a cornered animal”.

QF9, utilising one of the new Qantas B787-9 Dreamliners, has become possibly the longest scheduled passenger flight in history to suffer the infuriating inconvenience of a turnback caused by passenger disruption. It’s a distinction no airline wants to earn.

After takeoff from Perth on Saturday evening, passengers on QF9 expected to arrive in London in the early hours the following morning, after a flight of about 17 hours. Instead, the flight lasted four hours, ended up back in Perth and the passengers all suffered major delays.

Qantas said Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers removed a disruptive passenger when the aircraft landed back at point of departure. Passengers aboard said the man was handcuffed and masked on being arrested.

ABC News quoted a passenger saying the man had locked himself in one of the plane’s toilets for about an hour and had emerged “really wired and agitated”.

“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.”

Perth Now quoted a passenger describing the man as “hyper aggressive, like a cornered animal”.

Cabin crew at one point asked passengers for help to try to calm the man, and some male passengers apparently responded.

Passengers praised the captain and crew. The ABC quoted passenger Robyn Guengerich saying the captain was “very calm” and had said: “We’re very sorry for your interruption to your flight, the man is very unwell at the back of the plane and we’ve had advice that we need to turn the plane around and go back to Perth.”

Pictures showed a man in a white T-shirt being led away, handcuffed.

Predictably, the disruption to such a long flight meant the crew “ran out of hours” – exceeding their duty limits. That meant the flight had to be rescheduled for the following day, with passengers put up overnight in Perth hotels.

While it’s too early to say what caused the man’s behaviour, the episode can be expected to increase pressure on airlines and courts to crack down hard on in-flight disruption. There’s a rising feeling that passengers who disrupt flights should cover the cost, which in this case could mean paying for lodging and breakfast at rack rates for perhaps 180 passengers, plus cost of extra fuel burn, crew rostering and general inconvenience.

Written by Peter Needham

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