Hijack scare passenger Matt Lockley to face court

The man who sparked a hijack scare while on a Virgin Australia flight from Brisbane to Bali has been ordered to face court in June.

Matt Lockley of Tweed Heads has been charged under the Civil Aviation Act for interfering with a crew member.

Mr Lockley, 27, is scheduled to face the Brisbane Magistrates Court on June 6.

In a statement, Australian Federal Police said it would not be providing further comment.

Mr Lockley returned to Brisbane late on Monday evening, but avoided the waiting media.

The 28-year-old plumber's Indonesian ordeal began with an onboard incident on Friday that he claimed was a misunderstanding when he mistook the cockpit door for a toilet door.

After arriving in Denpasar, Mr Lockley was arrested and detained in a Bali police hospital.

But Indonesian authorities released him after he told them an in-flight panic attack prompted him to bang on the cockpit door.

As he prepared to leave the Indonesian airport on Monday afternoon, Mr Lockley looked calm and said nothing as he was hustled past journalists by a group of perhaps 10 officials, including representatives of the Indonesian immigration department, the airport authority, airport management and the Australian consulate.

He was taken straight to the departure gate, suggesting the pre-flight formalities had already been dealt with before he arrived at the airport.

When journalists tried to follow him inside, the security guards from the departure gate also joined the crowd surrounding him.

Mr Lockley was wearing a blue t-shirt, khaki shorts, sandals and sunglasses.

The AFP assumed responsibility for the investigation because the flight originated in Australia.

On Sunday, Mr Lockley told reporters in Bali the incident was a misunderstanding.

“I had a panic attack and I just wanted to use the toilet and I made an accident [sic] by knocking on the cockpit door,” he said.

The plumber insisted he was not drunk, but said he had taken some Panadol and anti-inflammatory drugs, and had two drinks of Coke at Brisbane Airport before boarding the flight.

Mr Lockley said he travelled to Bali to search for his Indonesian wife.

She is believed to have been with him in Australia three weeks ago before returning to Indonesia, and has subsequently lost contact with her husband.

Mr Lockley was planning to go Bandung, in West Java, to search for her there if he could not find her in Bali.

Mr Lockley departed Bali’s Denpasar Airport at 3.55pm Indonesian time on Monday, with his flight arriving in Brisbane at 11.40pm.

A Virgin Australia spokeswoman said the crew and pilots had been interviewed as part of an internal investigation into the incident and the company was satisfied staff had acted in the best interests of passenger safety.

‘‘The captain and crew ensured the highest level of safety was maintained on flight VA41 and followed standard operating procedures,’’ the airline said in a statement.

‘‘The captain was then in regular communication with Air Traffic Control in line with correct protocols to keep them informed of the status of the disturbance prior to landing.’’

However, the company refused to explain publicly why the pilot, Neil Cooper, activated a hijack alert in response to Mr Lockley’s behaviour.

VIrgin Australia confirmed that the pilot or co-pilot of the flight activated a 7500 alert code – which, in international aviation terms, signifies a hijack – but did not deactivate the alert during the remaining 45 minutes in the air when it became clear it was not a hijack situation.

The alert triggered a full military response at Bali airport, shutting it down for almost an hour at its busiest time on Friday afternoon.

- Kim Stephens, Michael Bachelard and Kristian Silva

This article Hijack scare passenger Matt Lockley to face court was originally published in Brisbane Times.