Police praise hero passengers after 'bomb threat' on Malaysia Airlines plane.

A Malaysia Airlines plane was forced to return to Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport less than 30 minutes into a flight after a passenger allegedly tried to enter the cockpit, claiming to have explosives.

Passengers subdued a Melbourne man who claimed to have explosives and tried to move towards the cockpit of a Malaysia Airlines flight from Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur.

The 25-year-old Dandenong man is in police custody after he disrupted the flight 30 minutes after it took off from Tullamarine Airport late on Wednesday night.


Flight MH128, bound for Kuala Lumpur left Melbourne at 11:11pm and reached 6400 feet before turning around and landing at Tullamarine Airport 11:41pm.

“We believe that the actions of the passengers and crew were heroic,” Victoria Police superintendent Tony Langdon told reporters on Thursday.


“They managed to calm the situation, allow the aircraft to return safely and we can’t commend them highly enough.”

Supt Langdon said at least one passenger was involved in restraining the man.

He said the incident was not terror-related, and the man was known to police due to his history of mental illness.

Supt Langdon said the man was carrying an electronic device that police quickly realised was not a bomb.

“He had a piece of equipment which, for all intents and purposes is something that everybody would be carrying around on a daily basis,” he said.

Former AFL player Andrew Leoncelli, who was on board, told Fairfax the man screamed: “I’ve got a bomb and I’m going to f***ing blow the plane up” before flight attendants and other passengers tackled and restrained him.

Victoria Police has issued a statement about the incident, confirming they were called to Tullamarine Airport after a “request for assistance” from the airline.

malaysia airlines
Flight MH128 was bound for Kuala Lumpur when it was forced to turn back to Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport last night. Image via iStock.

"The man was subdued and a safety plan was enacted," Senior Constable Adam West said in the statement.

"The plane landed safely at the airport and passengers are currently exiting the plane and speaking to investigators.

"There appears to be no imminent threat to passengers, staff or public and the investigation is ongoing."

A statement from the airline said a "disruptive passenger" caused the plane to turn back to Melbourne.


"The operating Captain was alerted by a cabin crew of a passenger attempting to enter the cockpit.

"Malaysia Airlines would like to stress that at no point was the aircraft 'hijacked'.

"Following the incident on MH128, the disruptive passenger has been apprehended by airport security. Malaysia Airlines together with the Australian authorities will be investigating the incident."

The airline also confirmed that passengers have safely disembarked from the aircraft and are being screened by Australian authorities.

Image via Twitter.

"They will be accommodated at hotels and offered on the next available flight or on other carriers," the airline confirmed.


In air traffic control audio posted online, a male voice can be heard saying: "We have a passenger trying to enter the cockpit."

About three minutes later the same male voice can be heard saying the passenger was "claiming to have an explosive device, tried to enter the cockpit, has been overpowered by passengers."

"However we'd like to land and have the device checked," the voice says.

Photographs and videos taken by other passengers aboard the flight showed heavily armed security personnel boarding the plane after its return to Melbourne.


Speaking to 3AW, a woman named Vanessa said her boyfriend, Andrew, was a passenger on the plane and confronted the man who tried to enter the cockpit.


"He was the one who first confronted him when an air hostess was getting scared of this guy," she said.

"That's when the guy said, 'I'm going to blow up this plane'.

"That's when he was detained by other passengers, I believe."

Other passengers have stated it was clear the man in question was "under the influence" of drugs or alcohol at the time.

According to The Star, Malaysia's Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Seri Ab Aziz Kaprawi said the passenger was "drunk".

"I have no information yet as to whether the plane will be taking off again soon, but it is believed that the suspect is a Sri Lankan national, and that he was drunk," he said.

The airline said the man was apprehended by airport security after the plane landed and was sent to a remote part of the airport, while Mr Leoncelli said passengers waited 90 minutes before police boarded the plane.

All other flights were diverted to Avalon, near Geelong, with Melbourne Airport in lockdown at the time.

Supt Langdon said passengers had been interviewed and were now being sent back to Malaysia Airlines.

"(Passengers are) very concerned. They're tired. They've had their plans disrupted. I can't praise them highly enough," he said.