Jetstar attack 'not an isolated event'

Angry passengers attacking airline crew over flight delays and diversions have become frequent events, according to pilots and passengers.

Following reports of a Jetstar pilot and crew being held hostage at Shanghai airport last Friday, many accounts of similar incidents have emerged.

Sydney consultant Will Gardner told Fairfax he had also been involved in an incident in Shanghai that erupted into angry scenes when his flight to Tokyo was cancelled.

But in that incident, Dr Gardner said, the crew and ground staff of a Chinese airline had just walked away, leaving passengers without any accommodation or alternative transport.

"A group of passengers eventually managed to convince the airline to arrange accommodation, ground transport and a replacement flight the next day," he said.

"However, for this to happen, it involved almost violent scenes, where local Chinese were vandalising the service desks and coming close to assaulting staff.

"It seemed that the norm is for the airlines in Shanghai to leave passengers stranded, which could explain why the crowd took action so violently [last] week."

In another incident, Stewart Meas and his family were on holiday from the United States in July when their flight to Shanghai was delayed in Hong Kong.

"A mob scene at the airport lasted more than nine hours. It was a frightening event," said Mr Meas.


An Australian expat living in China described an incident several years ago in which the passengers physically handled and abused the purser during a drama that lasted seven hours.

"We made calls for help to the police, airport services, our own airline, and yet no help came."

There has also been widespread public support for the Jetstar crew who came under attack.

The pilot has been praised for keeping calm even while being physically restrained against a wall by a crowd of irate passengers.

The A330-200 flight, which had originated in Melbourne and picked up passengers in Singapore, was flying to Beijing when it had to be diverted because of bad weather.

US passenger Alastair Johnson has recounted how he tried to go to the aid of pilot as security, immigration and customs officers stood by and watched the conflict.

Numerous Australian pilots also supported the Jetstar crew and said the incidents are too frequent to ignore.

One pilot working overseas said no airline pilot is trained to face an angry mob.

"One dissatisfied passenger, yes. What you relate has to do with mob control. Not our job, especially after a long night 'on the stick'.

"What I can tell you is that we witness day-in, day-out obnoxious behaviour from passengers. This industry has become low cost ... and for that price, you also get low-cost behaviour.

Another said the event must be followed up.

"We cannot let this incident pass without further comment, as it is vital that people know that engaging in this sort of behaviour is nothing short of a criminal act."

Were you on the plane? Did you take photos of the incident?

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