On Sunday, we saw some shocking images on social media of a flight attendant who had been taken hostage onboard an Air China flight from the central Chinese city of Changsha to Beijing. A passenger had threatened the female crew member with a fountain pen and held it to her neck, causing the pilots to immediately divert the flight to Zhengzhou.
Thankfully, the Chinese authorities said the incident was resolved soon after the plane landed without injury to any passengers or crew.
In the hours after the drama unfolded, there was little information to report, apart from authorities saying the flight attendant had been held “under duress” and an official statement from Air China which said the flight had been diverted due to “public safety reasons.”
At the time we didn’t know why the passenger had taken the flight attendant hostage or whether any demands were being made by the hostage taker. It now turns out that the authorities are claiming the male was mentally unwell and had utilised a seemingly innocent object to threaten the crew and force the plane to divert.
We now even have video from Chinese media which shows the efforts by local police, military forces and airport officials to free the flight attendant. It turns out the passenger remained holding onto the flight attendant even after the plane had landed – and after all the other passengers had been evacuated.
Negotiators moved in and tried to reason with the hostage taker – he was still holding onto flight attendant by the cockpit door of the Airbus A321. At the same time, an elite military team was preparing to storm the plane just in case.
Soon after, military personnel who had entered the cockpit through the emergency escape window, storm through the cockpit door and manage the subdue the passenger. The flight attendant is thankfully freed unharmed.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.