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Drunk man said 'see you in heaven' before trying to open emergency exit on TUI flight

Leeds Live logo Leeds Live 17/08/2022 Sophie Halle-Richards & Connor Teale

An 'intoxicated' man told passengers he would 'see them in heaven' before attempting to open the emergency exit midway through a flight, according to petrified TUI holidaymakers.

Passengers on the flight from Paphos to Manchester were left 'fearing for their lives' and the plane had to be diverted to Zagreb in Croatia because of the 'disruptive passenger', the Manchester Evening News reports. Some of those onboard the plane have claimed they saw the man openly taking a substance resembling cocaine.

He is said to have then made chilling threats towards other passengers and cabin staff before reaching for the emergency exit. The shocking moment was met with screams from other petrified passengers before the man was reportedly restrained by others on the plane.

Read more: Leeds man says boss calling out his strange behaviour saved his life

Those stuck at the airport after the flight was diverted to Zagreb on Tuesday morning have claimed they were left without any food or drink for hours. They have also claimed TUI representatives did not get in touch with any information about when they might be returning home.

It is understood another flight took passengers back to Manchester Airport on Wednesday evening after TUI confirmed the disruptive passenger would not be allowed back on the plane. One passenger, named Kirsty, was sitting with her husband and two children when the chaos unfolded. She described the shocking incident as the 'most frightening experience of my life.'

Her family had already been put up in a hotel the night before due to their original flight to Manchester on August 14 being delayed as the crew had 'reached their regulated hours.' She said: "TUI allowed an intoxicated and aggressive passenger on our flight. We all felt scared when he first arrived on the plane but flight attendants were still serving him drinks.

Passengers waiting at Zagreb airport after their flight was diverted © MEN Media Passengers waiting at Zagreb airport after their flight was diverted

"We watched the passenger take cocaine and try to open the plane door. I honestly thought my life was going to be taken. This passenger pointed at me and my children and told us that he would 'see us in heaven.'

"As he crouched on the floor praying I screamed for help. The only help I received was from my husband who took matters into his own hands to defend and protect everyone on this flight."

Kirsty said her family were left 'sitting on the airport floor' in Zagreb for hours before finally being taken to a hotel 20 minutes away. "I am just really shocked. It is the lack of communication and support from TUI. The whole thing has just been absolutely horrific," she said.

James Rawcliffe, 38, had been sitting at the front of the plane with his wife and daughter, who has autism, when he noticed a commotion towards the back of the plane. "They said they were going to turn the lights off so people could sleep but then they suddenly went back on and you could see something was happening at the back of the plane," he said.

"There were a lot of people going towards the guy and trying to calm him down. As time went on there was an off duty police officer and he went forward with another volunteer to try and calm the guy down.

"He was getting on his knees and said 'I will see you all in heaven' then he went towards the door to try and open it before three of the guys jumped on him. There was screaming, crying and just blind panic."

The dad described scenes of chaos after arriving at Zagreb airport, as passengers were getting 'upset' over the lack of communication, and others required medical assistance. "There were a lot of people sleeping on cases for long periods of time and people were getting very upset," he said. "One family needed insulin and were told to go and find an ambulance outside.

"There was no water and no correspondence from TUI. We have just been left to our own devices. In the end they gave us 50 euros to buy some food but a lot of the shops weren't open so it was a long time before you could get anything to eat or drink."

James said the trio were eventually taken to a hotel and given a meal but described the gesture as 'too little too late'. He added: "It's been absolutely terrible. I understand not everything that's happened is TUI's fault but the biggest problem has been the lack of communication."

A spokesperson for TUI said: "We’re very sorry to all customers impacted by the delay to TOM2731 and subsequent diversion due to a disruptive passenger. Unfortunately due to on-going disruption with the aviation ecosystem, the original flight was delayed overnight as crew had reached their regulated hours. Our TUI reps supported customers throughout and the airport and the flight departed on Monday 15 August in the evening.

"The health and safety of our customers and crew is always our highest priority and due to a disruptive passenger the flight was forced to divert to Zagreb, Croatia. The passenger was offloaded, was met by Police will not travel with TUI when the flight departs later today. We take a zero-tolerance approach to disruptive behaviour on our flights.

"We understand how frustrating this additional delay will be for our customers and apologise for the on-going delay they now face. We have a TUI team supporting customers in Croatia, we have kept them updated with regular communication, have sourced accommodation and provided meals and refreshments.

"We thank customers for their understanding and patience and would like to reassure customers that instances like this are extremely rare."

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