Drunk passenger on Virgin Australia flight to Bali tries to break into cockpit, sparking hijack alert

This photo taken through the window of a plane shows a Virgin Australia plane at the centre of a hijacking scare sitting on the tarmac at Bali airport in Denpasar, on April 25, 2014. A drunk passenger sparked a hijacking alert on a Virgin Australia f
This photo taken through the window of a plane shows a Virgin Australia plane at the centre of a hijacking scare sitting on the tarmac at Bali airport in Denpasar, on April 25, 2014. A drunk passenger sparked a hijacking alert on a Virgin Australia flight heading for the Indonesian resort island of Bali on Friday when he attempted to break into the cockpit, officials said. -- PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA (AFP/Reuters) - A drunk passenger sparked a hijacking alert on a Virgin Australia flight heading for the Indonesian resort island of Bali on Friday when he attempted to break into the cockpit, officials said.

Security forces rushed to the airport when the 737-800 touched down on the popular resort island, as the authorities said they had received information the Brisbane to Bali flight had been hijacked.

However, Virgin Australia said the drunken passenger, whom the authorities identified as Matt Christopher from Australia, had sparked the alarm when he slammed on the cockpit door. He was later arrested by the Indonesian authorities.

"This is no hijacking, this is a miscommunication," said Mr 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, through the cockpit door, by banging on the door, but he did not enter the cockpit at all."

He said the individual was stopped by crew members and handcuffed and placed in a seat at the back of the plane. After landing he was taken off the plane and put under arrest.

The 137 passengers and six crew members were unharmed and were taken off the aircraft at Denpasar, in Bali, an air force spokesman said. “The suspect is being interrogated by police in Bali,” said Mr Suhardi Alius, a police official in Jakarta.

Mr Palani Mohan, a passenger on a Garuda flight that was about 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 150m away from us.

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

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

The airport was shut down for a time, but after the Virgin plane was taken off the tarmac, flights resumed.

Airport operations in Bali have returned to normal, an airport official said.

Virgin Australia Airlines, formerly Virgin Blue Airlines, is Australia’s second-largest airline as well as the largest by fleet size to use the Virgin brand.