Mobile Phone Row Causes Qantas Flight To Return To Sydney

Two Qantas passengers involved in an altercation onboard a QantasLink flight caused the aircraft to return to Sydney on earlier this week. The incident onboard the Dash-8 400 service between Sydney and Canberra saw heated words exchanged when one passenger continued using his phone whilst airborne. Like many people bound for Canberra, he may have thought himself not bound by the rules the rest of us have to live by. The plane was met by Australian Federal Police (AFP) back in Sydney. The two men were said to be as quiet as mice when being escorted off the plane.

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Two men arguing over a mobile phone caused a QantasLink Dash 8 to return to Sydney earlier this week. Photo: John via Flickr.

Piecing together what happened

The incident occurred on Monday, September 9th. The Independent says it occurred on QF1421. This flight is the 14:30 Dash-8 400 service down to Canberra that is scheduled to arrive at 15:25.

The Independent says an argument broke out between two male passengers whilst still taxiing in Sydney. One younger man refused to turn his phone off. His fellow traveller, an older man, ”snatched” the phone off him and threw it away. Yahoo News said the older man became infuriated.

Yahoo quotes a passenger on board who said the flight took off despite the misbehaviour beginning prior to takeoff.

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“We took off and were about halfway to Canberra when the pilot said we would be turning around and heading back to Sydney.”

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The flight was midway to Canberra before it turned around. Source: FlightAware.

The same passenger also appears to have spoken to News.Com, telling them that he was seated a few rows ahead of the men and hadn’t heard anything. News.Com quotes the passenger as saying;

“I heard some people say the older man threw the younger one’s phone and the air hostess got involved. The air hostess said, ‘That’s not your job that’s my job’. It all happened very quickly, there were no raised voices.”

The pilot made the decision to return to Sydney, telling other travelers that passenger misbehaviour would not be tolerated.

Not charged

Three AFP officers met the plane and took the two men off. The AFP later said neither were charged. An AFP spokesman said;

“AFP officers spoke with staff and a number of passengers in relation to an alleged on-board altercation, however, no charges have been laid at this time and no further comment can be made,

The flight eventually made it to Canberra, arriving one and a half hours late. Passengers were generally complimentary about the way Qantas handled the incident. 

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AFP officers met the plane in Sydney and took the two men off the flight. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr.

The News.Com story has mobile phone footage of three AFP officers coming onto the plane to take two passengers off. It is fairly uneventful and the audio is indiscernible. Yahoo News suggested they “stormed” the plane. Strolled on is a better descriptor.

Given the typical demographic of a Canberra bound passenger on a Qantas plane, it would make for a fun parlour game ascertaining the miscreant’s identity. He is so far unnamed in the media. But Canberra bound planes are filled to the gills with gold and platinum status bureaucrats, staffers, and politicians. You’d think he’d know better. 

When asked, Qantas declined to comment.

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Vedant Ganesh

Ugh. Modern society is really addicted to our devices. This needs to stop.

Matthew in PDX

The flight attendant was correct, it is her job to enforce civil aviation rules. The older passenger should have alerted the flight attendant to the situation. I’ve seen plenty of situations with people using their devices during the initial part of taxiing, usually they stop before the airplane gets to the runway. The flight attendants usually do a last walk through the cabin and if a passenger is ignoring instructions, they would alert the Captain. I’ve been on a flight where the Captain warned that takeoff would be delayed until all devices were turned off and put away. I have… Read more »