Officials from Ngurah Rai International Airport on Bali have said the removal of a group of Australian passengers from a Melbourne-bound Jetstar flight on Sunday had nothing to do with their religion.
"We want to convey that the removal of a number of passengers from [the Jetstar plane] was purely because of security and flight safety reasons related to unruly passengers and had nothing to do with SARA [tribal affiliations, religion, race and societal groups] issues," airport spokesman Arie Ahsanurrohim said in a statement on Wednesday.
He said the incident started when Jetstar flight JQ-36 was preparing to take off on Sunday night and the cabin crew asked passengers to return to their seats and put on their seatbelts.
"Two passengers did not heed the cabin crew's instructions," he said.
One passenger had complained that the in-flight entertainment monitor at his seat would not turn on. The cabin crew said they would address the matter after the flight had taken off, but the two passengers insisted on remaining standing.
"After the warnings were not heeded by the aforementioned passengers, the cabin crew reported the incident to the pilot [...] who decided that the two passengers should be removed from the plane because they would not listen to the flight safety instructions from the cabin crew," Arie said, adding that 19 other passengers who were in the same group had protested the removal of the two passengers, and were thus also removed from the plane.
The incident, which involved a newly married couple and their family members, has made the rounds on Australian and Indonesian media, with newlywed Sarah Aslan saying on Australia's Channel 9 News that she felt the group had been "attacked for looking ethnic and being Muslim.”
Jetstar has also denied that their staff had acted inappropriately.
"The safety of our customers and crew is our number one priority and we do not tolerate any kind of disruptive or abusive behavior," an airline spokesperson said, as quoted by 9news.com.au. (kmt)