Phila Siu from Standard
About 400 Cathay Pacific passengers got the fright of a lifetime when a man ran amok on a Hong Kong-bound flight and attacked two cabin crew on the approach to Hong Kong International Airport.
One report suggested the man, a 52-year-old Filipino, tried to open a door in midair, although police denied this.
The man was subdued by two passengers - including a Mongolian wrestler who immobilized him with a "neck lock."
The incident happened aboard flight CX712 from Bangkok. At around 7pm, about 30 minutes before it was due to touch down on Monday, the man attacked two flight attendants, holding one at knifepoint.
Wrestler Zayabaatar Buyannemekh moved into action when he saw the knife.
"When I looked, there was a person struggling with three flight attendants, demanding and trying to open the door," he told a Mongolian web site.
"After seeing this, I tackled him using a neck lock while the second pilot came out and secured him with handcuffs."
Mongolian Prime Minister Sukhbaataryn Batbold is said to have given the wrestler an award to thank him for saving the 398 passengers.
Cathay confirmed that a cabin crew member was assaulted on the Boeing 777.
"With the flight landed at HKIA, the police detained the concerned passenger for investigation," a spokeswoman said.
"One of the cabin crew was slightly injured during the incident and she was sent to hospital for examination. She was discharged later the same day."
The two passengers who helped were slightly hurt but hospital visits was not required. All other passengers were unaffected, she added.
Police are looking into the incident.
Although the web site called the incident a terrorist attack, the spokeswoman said there is no evidence to suggest that is the case. She also fended off claims that the airline offered lifetime first-class flights, saying no rewards have been given.
Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants' Union chairwoman Dora Lai Yuk-sim cited attendants on the flight as saying the attacker may have had some mental problems. They said he kept walking back and forth on the plane before suddenly rushing into the business class section and holding an attendant at knifepoint.
Lai said there was nothing to suggest he was a terrorist nor had she heard about an attempt to open the door.
Police said the man has been charged with behaving in a disorderly manner on board an aircraft and is awaiting a psychological report. He will appear in Tsuen Wan Magistrates' Court on May 2.
A Philippines consulate spokeswoman confirmed that staff had contacted the man but declined to give further details, including whether he is still in Hong Kong, or a suspected terrorist. "You will have to talk to the local authorities," she said.
According to an aviation expert, it is "almost impossible" to open the door of a aircraft in flight because of the air pressure pushing against the door from outside.
Even a strong and well-trained man could not succeed, said the expert, who asked not to be named.
The Civil Aviation Department said it is aware of the incident, and that it involved "unruly behavior of a passenger."
Meanwhile, a Taiwan-bound plane was forced to make an emergency return yesterday when it was struck by lightning shortly after takeoff in stormy weather that stranded more than 200 other flights.
Hong Kong Express Airways flight UO162, carrying 129 people to Taichung, took off from Chek Lap Kok about 12.30pm. Soon after, the Boeing 737 asked the airport for permission to return.
It had to circle for an hour before landing with all of its passengers safe. An inspection found no damage and the plane departed two hours later. According to the Airport Authority, 103 arrivals and 97 departures were delayed by heavy rain.