Etihad flight diverted to Jakarta after 'disruptions'

CAROLINE ZIELINKSKI
Last updated 11:33 19/02/2014

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Abu Dhabi police are interviewing passengers and crew from an Etihad flight forced to make an unscheduled landing in Jakarta after a "series of events which disrupted the flight".

Etihad Airways released a statement confirming a plane that left Melbourne for Abu Dhabi on Monday, just after 11pm, landed safely in the United Arab Emirates capital four hours behind schedule.

The Boeing 777-300ER was scheduled to fly directly to Abu Dhabi, but was forced to land in Jakarta for an "operational assessment," the spokesman said.

Norwegian professional golfer Caroline Martens, who was flying home from competing in the Australian Masters golf tournament, told Norwegian radio and television public broadcasting company NKR that a fire was started  on board ''directly while we were above the sea''.

''After a few hours I noticed that it smelled like smoke... but I thought everything was fine and just fell asleep,'' she said.

''About two hours after I woke up as the fire alarm went off again.''

Ms Martens, 27, said there was a fire in one of the toilets and smoke billowing out of another.

After the plane landed in Jakarta, the golfer said all passengers and crew were searched by local police, but no culprit was found.

''Thus we were all sent on a plane again without knowing who had done it. It is just not nice to know that someone will set fire to the aircraft you will be travelling with,'' Martens said.

''I'm just very happy to be on the ground again.''

Fairfax Media has received several emails from concerned family members of passengers said to be aboard flight EY461.

A worried daughter wrote about her parents' ''horrible and stressful'' journey, and said that the ''worst thing was that no-one explained the situation either to me or to my parents''.

''They didn't drink or eat anything for 19 hours, and they had to have their diabetes medicine,'' she wrote.

The boyfriend of another passenger, who arrived safely in England on Wednesday morning, told Fairfax Media of his girlfriend's terror.

''The cabin was full of smoke ... [and] there was a lockdown of all toilets,'' he wrote.

''Nobody was allowed to leave their seats without cabin crew, no food was served, no drinks, and everyone was panicking.''

Others claiming to have been aboard flight EY461 have taken to socal media to report a series of fires being lit on board, with some claiming to be ''lucky'' to have arrived safely.

One Instagram user wrote: ''Try having someone set the plane on fire, in two different places, having to emergency land in Jakarta, get back on after hours of investigations, for the IDIOT to set three more fires in three more toilets while mid-air and nowhere to land!!!!!''

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Another person claiming to have been on flight EY461 took her grievances to Twitter, complaining that Etihad Airways did not ''feed customers for almost 15 hours'' on the flight.

Abu Dhabi police are investigating the incident.

- FFX Aus

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