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LCQ5: Aviation security

     Following is a reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Ambrose S K Lee, to a question by the Hon Lau Kong-wah in the Legislative Council today (June 13):


     It has been reported that an incident occurred on a passenger flight of Cathay Pacific Airways (the airline) returning to Hong Kong from Thailand on the night of April 16 this year, in which a passenger assaulted a female flight attendant and attempted to open the emergency exit door, but fortunately he was brought under control with the help of another male passenger.  Later, the passenger who made the attack pleaded guilty in Court to the charges of committing disorderly behaviour and assault on board an aircraft, and he was sentenced to imprisonment.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the details of the aforesaid incident; of the reasons why the airline, the Police and the Civil Aviation Department had not taken the initiative to make public the incident after its occurrence; given that it has been reported that the male passenger who made the attack had acted "under orders" in attempting to open the exit door to make the plane plunge, which had caused false alarm over terrorist attacks, whether the authorities will improve the existing mechanism of disseminating such kind of information to the public;

(b) given that it has been reported that while waiting for the plane to take off, the male passenger who made the attack had been very emotional and only calmed down after he was comforted by a female flight attendant, and after the incident, the Police suspected that he was suffering from psychiatric disorder, whether it knows if airline companies will identify people with abnormal mental conditions and refuse to let them board the planes; and

(c) given the recent successive incidents of attacks on cabin crew members, whether it knows if airline companies will review and enhance the existing security measures (including provision of self-defence training for flight attendants) as well as improve the mechanism of disseminating information of unforeseen incidents, so as to enhance protection for the safety of aircraft, cabin crew members and passengers?



     According to the report submitted by Cathay Pacific Airways (CX) to the Civil Aviation Department (CAD) and the Police, a male passenger assaulted a flight attendant unforeseeably on Flight CX 712 from Bangkok to Hong Kong when it approached the Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) for landing on April 16.  The passenger was immediately held back and brought under control by other flight attendants with the help of two other passengers.  On receipt of notification by the pilot of the incident, the ground crew of CX notified the Police.  After the safe landing of the flight at HKIA, the passenger suspected of assault was immediately arrested by the Police for investigation.  Eventually, the concerned person was charged with two offences, i.e. "assault occasioning actual bodily harm" and "disorderly behaviour on board an aircraft".  He was found guilty of both offences and was sentenced to three months¡¦ imprisonment by the court after trial.

     The flight attendant being assaulted was slightly injured.  She was taken to hospital for examination after the incident and was discharged on the same day.  The two passengers who helped to bring the person making the assault under control also sustained minor injuries, but hospital treatment was not required.  According to the Police's investigation, there was no attempt to open the cabin door or the emergency exit door during the flight in the incident.

     The Police confirmed that information of this incident was released to the media on the material day under the established information dissemination mechanism of incidents.

(b) The male passenger who assaulted the flight attendant in this incident boarded the plane at Bangkok.  According to CX, their ground crew at Bangkok did not observe any sign of abnormality on him when they carried out boarding procedures for the passenger.

     In accordance with the Hong Kong Aviation Security Programme (HKASP) made under section 27 of the Aviation Security Ordinance, Chapter 494 of the Laws of Hong Kong, airlines are responsible for providing training on the handling of various anomalous situations which may pose threats to aviation safety, so as to ensure safety of the flights, air crew members and passengers.  Part of the training covers the identification and handling of passengers with difficult or destructive behaviour.  With regard to the actual situation and basing on the judgment of airline personnel, airlines may refuse to let any passengers suspected to be problematic to board a flight.

(c) As explained in my reply to part (b), the HKASP stipulates that airlines need to provide training to their flight attendants and ground crew to ensure that they are capable of handling various unforeseen incidents on an aircraft during its flight, including dealing with difficult and destructive behaviour of passengers, so as to ensure the flight safety of the aircraft, air crew members and passengers.  We understand that some airlines incorporate self-defence skills into the training for their flight attendants, which enable the aircraft personnel to better safeguard their personal safety.

Ends/Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Issued at HKT 14:38


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