A Virgin Australia Airlines flight en route from Brisbane to Bali, Indonesia, was forced to make emergency landing after the flight crew reported an attempted hijacking by a passenger.
The Boeing 737-800 was approximately 180 nautical miles away from Denpasar International Airport (about 30 minutes before the scheduled landing time), when a 27 year old Australian passenger, Matt Christopher Lockley, started banging at the cockpit door and tried to break in. The flight crew hand-cuffed him, took him to the cabin crew area and sent a mayday signal to the control towers in Makassar and Denpasar, indicating a possible hijacking attempt. The Bali airport authorities then prepared for an emergency landing protocol for the flight VA41, which was carrying 139 passengers and 6 crew members.
According to a Transport ministry official Herry Bakti, the emergency signal was received at about 2pm local time. The authorities from Virgin Australia confirm that the pilot had sent the standard signal code for ‘unlawful interference’, after which standard emergency response protocols were adopted.
The plane made an uneventful emergency landing and the Bali Police Chief, Inspector Benny Mokalu confirms that none of the passengers or crew members were harmed. The Indonesian military troops arrested Lockley, after the plane touched the ground.
Matt Christopher Lockley hails from Queensland, Australia and holds a driving license and a plumbing industry council card. The cabin crew reported that he looked ‘unstable’ and ‘paranoid’ during the flight. Police officials said that he claimed that he was hammering the cockpit door because he wanted to take some medicines from his luggage.
Heru Sudjatmiko, Virgin Australia’s Bali manager maintains that a drunk passenger tried to enter the cockpit which forced the emergency landing of the plane. It was not a hijacking attempt, it was a ‘miscommunication’. “I repeat, this is just a miscommunication. How the miscommunication occurred, I cannot answer because I wasn’t there. But it’s not true to say that the plane was hijacked…. I don’t know exactly what happened when the pilot communicated with the air traffic controller at Ngurah Rai,” he said.
Lockey is being investigated by the local police and it is not clear what charges will be made against him.