A Malaysia Airlines flight was forced to return to Sydney’s Kingsford Smith International Airport (SYD) after a passenger’s religious outburst threatened the security of the flight.
The incident, which occurred on August 14, 2023, took place on board Flight MH122 bound for Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KUL).
While the Airbus A330 departed SYD airport on time at 13:06 local time, the flight only reached as far as the northwest area of New South Wales before it was diverted to return to SYD.
Video footage of the incident was uploaded and shared on social media, where the passenger, carrying a black backpack, can be seen saying: “My name is Mohammad, slave of Allah.”
The passenger then singled out nearby passengers, asking each of them: “Are you a slave of Allan? Are you? Say it! Say it!”
A male flight attendant can also be seen trying to intervene, but was also asked the same question by the passenger.
To diffuse the situation, the flight attendant can be heard saying, “Yes I am, yes I am.”
However, the passenger did not seem convinced, and continued his diatribe.
The flight eventually landed back in SYD Airport at 15:47 local time. At this point, the aircraft remained on the runway while Australian Federal Police (AFP) were called to assist.
A passenger on board the flight told News.com.au that all passengers were moved to the back of the aircraft while the aircraft was surrounded by fire trucks.
Another video clip shows the passenger isolated in an area of the aircraft and performing prayer gestures while the remaining passengers look on.
Eventually, passengers were evacuated from the aircraft at around 18:30 local time without their belongings.
In a statement, Malaysia Airline confirmed the incident and said that the safety and comfort of its passengers and crew are of “utmost importance”.
“In the interest of safety, the commander of the flight made a decision to return to Sydney. The flight carrying 194 passengers and five crew onboard landed safely at 3:47 pm local time. The safety and comfort of our crew and passengers are of utmost importance to Malaysia Airlines,” the airline said.
According to a media statement released by the AFP, the disruptive passenger was arrested without incident.
“A passenger on an international flight from Sydney to Malaysia has been arrested by the AFP. The man, 45, was arrested by the AFP without incident. Passengers have now been evacuated from the aircraft. There is no impending threat to the community.The man is expected to be charged later tonight,” the AFP said.
The AFP said that updates will be provided at an “appropriate time”.