Update: A Perth man who caused the diversion to Cairns of a Qantas flight from Sydney to Japan last night has cost the company more than $120,000, a court has been told.
Justin Cooke, 34, allegedly attempted to smoke a cigarette on the plane before punching and spitting on crew members.
It will be alleged he was heavily intoxicated - police say he had a reading of 0.3 per cent - and had to be forcibly restrained after he was abusive towards the crew and other passengers on the QF21 flight.
The captain made the decision to divert the flight to Cairns Airport, where he was arrested by Australian Federal Police officers.
He appeared in the Cairns Magistrate Court today charged with smoking in an aircraft, behaving in a disorderly and offensive manner on board an aircraft, interfering with a crew or aircraft and assaulting general crew.
He was released on bail under strict conditions.
About 350 passengers were on the flight when the incident occurred. They arrived in Tokyo two hours after they were initially scheduled to land.
A Qantas spokesman said the crew handed the situation well and none of them were injured by the unruly passenger.
“We’re grateful for the patience the understanding of other passengers on the flight,” he said.
“This is an extreme and rare event but we have a zero tolerance approach for anti-social behaviour on this scale and for any actions that could potentially compromise the safety of anyone on a Qantas aircraft.”
The unscheduled stop cost Qantas more than $100,000.
The aircraft’s fuel load was dumped when it diverted to Cairns to bring it down to its maximum landing weight and it was later re-fuelled for the trip to Tokyo.
Qantas is expected to try to recover these costs.
AFP Assistant Commissioner Shane Connelly said violent and disorderly behaviour on aircrafts and at airports would not be tolerated.
“Enough is enough,” he said.
“An aircraft captain and co-pilot can ill-afford to be distracted from their duties of safely flying an aircraft by having to deal with drunk, violent or disorderly passengers.”
Over the 2011-12 financial year, AFP responded to more than 1000 alcohol-related incidents at ten major airports.
The latest incident has prompted Police to warn passengers to consume alcohol responsibly while travelling during the festive season.“Don’t ruin your holiday, embarrass yourself and your family and incur potentially heavy fines or compensation through violent or intoxicated behaviour on board an aircraft or in an airport,” Mr Connelly said.
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