Shocked passengers have described the moment Latam Airlines crew were forced to break into a toilet to prevent a self-harm incident an hour into a flight from Auckland to Chile.
Passengers aboard a flight re-routed to Auckland on Friday night claim details of the upsetting ordeal were never explained to passengers, leaving rumours to spread through the plane.
The Latam flight had left Auckland International Airport about 6.30pm on Friday night, bound for Santiago, Chile. About an hour in, the plane turned back and arrived in Auckland around three hours later.
Fabrizio Farra spoke to the Herald on behalf of his mother, Andrea Bastos, who was on the flight.
"[The victim] was out of his mind. He didn't want to go, then he said he did. Flight attendants had to break into the bathroom, then they dragged him to the kitchen area and tried to calm him down."
Bastos believed that the man was an unaccompanied deportee, but National Border Manager Stephanie Greathead confirmed to the Herald the man was not being deported.
"Immigration NZ (INZ) can confirm that a Chilean national was taken into custody on the flight's return to Auckland.
"The individual was not being deported. The individual was in New Zealand on a valid Working Holiday Visa. The individual remains in custody under the Immigration Act 2009."
Farra said his mother wished the passengers had been informed of what happened by Latam.
"She felt the airline could have been more honest. The flight was already late two hours so she was really tired of the whole situation by the time she got to Auckland."
He said many people on the plane "knew what had happened" through word of mouth but nothing was confirmed by airline staff.
Neusa Röhsig was also on the flight with her son, Elias Röhsig Buhl, but said she could not comment on the bathroom incident, which she did not witness first-hand.
"I cannot trust what I have not seen.
"I only noticed the movement of the [flight attendants], one ran and returned with a glass of water."
Röhsig also had firm words for Latam. "Nothing was cleared up to the passengers. From the little that we witnessed the attitude was hasty.
"The company needs to greatly improve its logistics in these situations and directly accompany all passengers, exclusively, to their final destination.
"This is a major inconvenience, as we had to pack our bags, spend the night in a hotel, compromise the next connection and the arrival schedule. At no point was I afraid of being in any sort of danger, but the lack of information and disregard for other passengers was only compensated by the interaction and support between [the passengers].
"The said passenger walked quietly off the plane [in Auckland]. I'm really happy to be back at my house."
Röhsig also assumed the man was a deportee and said she believed he had been led to boarding by police.
Police confirmed on Saturday that the person was taken into custody on the flight's return to Auckland and "they remain in custody under the Immigration Act". Today a spokesperson confirmed no further police action was being taken.
A Latam Airlines Group spokesperson said: "Latam Airlines Group flight LA800 from Auckland to Santiago yesterday had to return Auckland due to a disruptive passenger, approximately one hour and 15 minutes after take-off.
"The decision was made in line with established operational and safety protocols, designed to safeguard passenger welfare. The aircraft arrived safely in Auckland at 20:14 local time and was greeted by local authorities to escort said passenger. No harm was met by passengers or crew.
"Latam apologises for the inconvenience caused to other passengers on the flight, who were provided with hotel accommodation."
A replacement flight left Auckland just after lunchtime on Saturday.
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