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Stoke-on-Trent family's terrified as 'drugged up and praying' TUI passenger tries to open plane door mid-flight

Stoke on Trent Live logo Stoke on Trent Live 16/08/2022 Sophie Halle-Richards & Fahad Tariq
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A Stokie holidaymaker and her family were terrified as a passenger on their TUI flight attempted to open the plane door while they were thousands of feet up in the air. The 'highly intoxicated and drugged up' passenger made threats before risking the lives of his fellow passengers - by trying to open the emergency exit mid flight.

The flight from Paphos to Manchester had already been delayed for a number of hours due to staffing problems, before it was forced to divert to Zagreb in Croatia due to the 'disruptive passenger'.

Those on board described seeing the man openly taking a substance resembling cocaine and praying on the floor, before making chilling threats towards other holidaymakers and cabin staff.

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Screams could reportedly be heard throughout the aircraft after claims the man attempted to open the emergency exit - before being restrained by fellow passengers, M.E.N reports.

After the plane was diverted to Zagreb airport in the early hours of this morning (August 16), holidaymakers claim they were left stranded for hours without any food or drink - or any contact from TUI representatives about when they'd be able to go home.

Another flight is due to take passengers back to Manchester Airport this evening, with TUI confirming that the disruptive passenger would not be allowed to board the flight again.

A Stoke-on-Trent couple were on the flight with their daughters aged six, nine and 11. The family describe feeling 'terrified' during the ordeal.

The mum told StokeonTrentLive: "There was a male on board who was highly intoxicated and drugged up. This male passenger sat in his seat proceeding to drink alcohol which he had taken onboard himself and also alcohol that was purchased from the staff on board the flight.

"He mixed the drugs with his drink and then began to pace the aisle whilst saying a prayer. He then kept making suicidal threats and told everybody on board he would see them in heaven.

"He attempted to open the plane door while been restrained by passengers, the plane made an emergency landing leaving passengers shook and traumatised. We sat waiting for police to escort him off the flight which took about 20 minutes before he was taken off.

"For 10 hours we waited in Croatia airport, terrified children who had just witnessed the most traumatic experience were left to wait on the airport floor along with elderly and disabled passengers. Over 200 people were lay on the floor waiting for a member of TUI come and nobody did."

A TUI plane © TUI AG A TUI plane

She added: "We were left while flight staff and captain checked into a hotel. This is disgusting and TUI should be utterly ashamed of the way this has been handled. Not only did we have that to deal with but to our amazement the said male who had disrupted the plane was then freely walking around Croatia airport waiting to board a flight.

"He had not been charged with anything due to airline staff not staying behind to make a report. Obviously this alarmed passengers as children were scared and upset to see him again and people did not want him any where near them.

"He had an arrogant attitude as he paced the airport with not a policeman in site. He has continuously provoked passengers. My daughters were absolutely petrified every time he walked past. When my husband asked why he keeps walking past, one time his reply was 'I need to pray', another time he said he was looking for a blade as he had been assaulted and wanted to cut someone.

"When the airport security were told there answer was , there’s nothing we can do! I really can’t believe what my eyes have seen."

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.

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

"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.

"We are finally at a hotel now and have been provided with a meal but it's too little too late to be honest. 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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