A drunken passenger on board a Brisbane to Bali flight sparked a major alert, causing Denpasar airport to close and flights to be diverted after initial reports he was a hijacker.
Authorities in Bali said Matt Christopher Lockley was arrested by military police and taken in for questioning after the Virgin Australia flight landed safely at Ngurah rai airport.
Indonesian authorities rushed their hijack plans into action after initial reports that the Virgin Australia plane, on a flight from Brisbane to Bali, had been hijacked.
As the drama unfolded, air traffic control in Bali diverted incoming flights to Surabaya, in East Java, and others were stopped from taking off.
The man was arrested after the plane landed and was taken into the custody of the military police.
Police have yet to decide if they will charge Lockley.
Initial reports from Indonesian military and media and suggested the plane had been hijacked. But this was quickly dismissed when it became apparent the would-be cockpit imposer was a drunken Australian passenger.
The in-flight incident occurred when the plane was about one hour away from its scheduled landing time in Bali of about 2pm local time.
One source told News Corp Australia that somehow an emergency button was pressed, which communicated with air traffic control who understood it to mean a hijack was underway.
But this was quickly dismissed.
Virgin’s Bali manager Heru Sudjatmiko said 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,” Mr Sudjatmiko told indonesia’s Metro TV station.
“I don’t know exactly what happened when the pilot communicated with the air traffic controller at Ngurah rai,”he said.
The plane was carrying 139 passengers on the busy Brisbane to Denpasar route.
The Denpasar City Police chief Adj. Commissioner DjokoHariutomo told Kompas media that a drunk passenger tried to enter the cockpit of the Boeing B737-300 plane.
“We deployed a lot of personnel because we are informed that an aircraft was hijacked,” Djoko said.
A witness told News Corp Australia: “Just watched the Virgin plane taxi into airport with 10 armoured and police vehicles following ... it appears as though the doors are open therefore presuming passengers disembarking.”
Palani Mohan, a passenger on a Garuda flight that was about to take off from Bali, said they were told an alleged hijacking had taken place at first, which would delay their flight.
“I saw at least five vehicles including military-style trucks, filled with men in uniform, rushing towards the plane.
“Then the Virgin plane taxied away, followed by the convoy of security forces. The flight attendant said it’s been taken off to a different part of the airport.
“Bali airport seems to be in lockdown, we’ve been told no planes will be departing or arriving. The pilot’s not allowing anyone off our plane.”
A Virgin Australia spokesman said one other flight was affected en route from Sydney to Denpasar, and was diverted to Darwin Airport.
It was a decision made by the Indonesian authorities to shut Denpasar Airport, leaving multiple flights in the lurch.
“It depends on crew hours, but it is most likely that the plane will be refuelled tonight and then continue on to its destination,” the spokesman said.