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TUI plane diverted after man says 'see you in heaven' before trying to open door mid-flight

Nottinghamshire Live logo Nottinghamshire Live 16/08/2022 Sophie Halle-Richards & Joel Moore

TUI holidaymakers say they were left fearing for their lives after a 'intoxicated passenger' allegedly tried to open a plane's emergency exit during the flight. The journey 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.'

Passengers described seeing the man praying on the floor, before making chilling threats towards other holidaymakers and cabin staff, reports Manchester Evening News. Screams could reportedly be heard throughout the aircraft after claims the man attempted to open the emergency exit - before being restrained by fellow passengers.

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.

Read more: UK traveller update as new date set for charge to enter Spain, France, Greece and Portugal

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.'

Speaking to the M.E.N, 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.

"We watched the passenger 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.'

James Rawcliffe and daughter lying on the floor of Zagreb airport after their flight was diverted due to a disruptive passenger © James Rawcliffe James Rawcliffe and daughter lying on the floor of Zagreb airport after their flight was diverted due to a disruptive passenger

"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."

After landing in Croatia at 1am, Kirsty said there was nobody there to greet passengers and claims they were left for a number of hours without being provided any food or drink.

"We were left sitting on the airport floor since the early hours of the morning and have now finally been taken to a hotel 20 minutes away from the airport," she said. "We have just received a message saying we should be flying back to Manchester at 7.30pm tonight.

"I am just really shocked. It is the lack of communication and support from TUI. The whole thing has just been absolutely horrific."

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, from Blackpool, 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.

TUI have apologised to passengers for the disruption © Leicester Mercury / Chris Gordon TUI have apologised to passengers for the disruption

"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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