Virgin Australia passenger sparks Bali hijacking scare


A drunk passenger caused the closure of Bali’s airport and sparked a full-scale security alert when he attempted to enter the cockpit of a Virgin Australia flight from Brisbane to Denpasar, prompting the pilot to report a hijacking attempt.

Virgin Australia airport manager at Ngurah Rai, Heru Sudjatmiko said a drunk passenger on board flight VA41 had tried to enter the cockpit of the plane but had been stopped by the crew.

The man was handcuffed and put into a rear seat of the Boeing 737-800, which landed safely.

Fairfax Media has learned the drunk or drug-affected man banged on the cockpit door, trying to gain access and alarming the pilots.

Ngurah Rai airport was closed temporarily after Indonesian authorities interpreted the incident on flight VA41 as a hijacking.

But Virgin quickly scotched that speculation.

“It was a hundred per cent not a hijacking,” a spokesman for the airline said.

Bali Air Force Commander Colonel Sugiharto, said the perpetrator was an Australian passenger named Matt Christopher, 28.

Police chief Suhardi Alius said the man was in custody and being interrogated.

Earlier, the Indonesian military confirmed it was responding to reports of a hijacking.

Mr Heru said this was “clearly a miscommunication”. The pilot himself had told air traffic control that the plane was hijacked, and sent a distress call.

“I don’t know why that happened,” Mr Heru said.

Perth man Chris Corless was at Denpasar’s airport when the incident occurred.

“My wife and I were waiting for our flight and just noticed planes weren’t departing,” Mr Corless said.

“Then the Virgin flight landed and was escorted immediately to the tarmac opposite the terminal.

“Security surrounded the plane and then there was some movement then security left and the plane taxied to a normal gate. All said and done in 30 minutes.

“Sounds like it wasn’t serious, security didn’t take long to clear the situation.”



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