SINGAPORE - Unhappy at being told that he had to check in his carry-on bag, a 41-year-old man on board a Scoot flight joked that he had a bomb in the bag.
This led to the Hat Yai-bound plane being turned back to Singapore, and fighter jets from the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) being scrambled to escort it back.
On Tuesday (Oct 2), Hsu Chun Meng was fined $4,500 for breaching the Protection from Harassment Act by using threatening words to cause alarm.
The court heard that Hsu boarded flight TR634 from Singapore to Hat Yai, Thailand, with two friends at about 12.55pm on April 5 this year.
He tried to put his hand-carry luggage in the overhead compartment but it could not fit.
Stewardess Boo Joe We, 23, told him that he had to check it in. He tried to shut the compartment a few more times before relenting.
When Ms Boo asked him if he had any prohibited items in the bag, Hsu, unhappy with her attitude and the way she spoke to him, replied: "Nothing, only bomb."
The stewardess stared at him.
He then said: "No bomb lah. Joking. How can it be?"
Ms Boo was initially alarmed by what he said, but accepted his explanation and went about the rest of her duties.
When the plane was about to take off at 1.53pm, Ms Boo told her cabin crew leader, Ms Ginny Chiong Wen Chin, 26, about the incident with Hsu.
Ms Chiong decided to inform the captain of the plane, but as the plane was about to take off, she could not enter the cockpit.
When the plane was airborne, Ms Chiong entered the cockpit and informed the pilot of what Hsu had said earlier.
After ascertaining the facts, the pilot followed established protocol and reported "Mayday" to the Malaysian air traffic control. He also informed the Singapore air traffic control that he was heading back to Singapore, which was the nearest airport.
As the plane carrying 179 people entered Singapore airspace at about 2.20pm, RSAF fighter jets were scrambled to escort the plane. The plane landed at a remote area away from the main Changi Airport terminals.
When the police arrived, all the passengers had to disembark while officers conducted a security sweep of the aircraft. Hsu and his friends' luggage bags were located and separately removed for security checks.
In all, the flight was delayed for four hours and 48 minutes.
The entire cabin crew and pilots were replaced with a fresh crew, and affected passengers were given vouchers totalling $13,757.60.
In sentencing, District Judge Adam Nakhoda said Hsu's behaviour cannot be tolerated, and there was a need to deter like-minded individuals from doing the same.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.