A 41-year-old man who falsely claimed that he had a bomb in his hand-carry luggage while aboard a Scoot flight was fined $4,500 on Tuesday (2 October).
Hsu Chun Meng’s actions on 5 April this year led to Flight TR634 from Singapore to Hat Yai, Thailand, being diverted back to Singapore. Two Republic of Singapore F-15SG fighter jets were also scrambled to escort the passenger plane during the incident.
According to court documents, Hsu – who is a Singaporean – had pleaded guilty to one charge under Protection from Harassment Act (Poha) for using threatening words in front of Scoot stewardess Boo Joe We by stating that there was a bomb inside his hand-carry luggage.
For Hsu’s sentencing, the prosecution had sought a fine of at least $4,000 as it saw a strong need to deter such behaviour and to remind others that similar acts would be firmly dealt with by the Courts.
Under Section 4(2) of the Poha, Hsu could have been fined up to $5,000.
‘Nothing, only bomb’
At about 12.55pm on the day of the incident, Hsu boarded the flight with two friends. He placed his one piece of hand-carry luggage in the overhead compartment above his seat, but found that it could not be closed as the luggage was oversized.
Boo then noticed the oversized luggage and informed Hsu that his bag would need to be checked in. Hsu continued to try to squeeze his bag into the overhead compartment and Boo again told him that the luggage would not fit as it was oversized.
After the luggage was removed from the compartment, Boo asked Hsu if he had any necessary items – such as his passport, medicine or wallet – inside the bag, to which Hsu responded, “Nothing, only bomb.”
Hsu said he responded in such a manner as he had been unhappy with Boo’s attitude and the way in which she had spoken to him. As Boo stared at Hsu, he then said, “No bomb lah. Joking. How can it be.”
While Boo was alarmed by Hsu’s words, she accepted his explanation that he was only joking and carried on with her duties. At about 1.53pm, as the aircraft was on the runway, Boo informed her supervisor, Chiong Wen Chin Ginny, about her exchange with Hsu.
Chiong told Boo that such incidents could not be taken lightly and wanted to inform the pilot of the incident, but was unable to do so as the aircraft was about to take off.
Once the plane was in the air, Chiong entered the cockpit and informed the pilot of what had happened. Following protocol, the pilot then reported “Mayday” to the Malaysia air control and also informed the Singapore air control that he was taking the aircraft back to Singapore.
Upon entering Singapore airspace at about 2.20pm, the two Singapore air force fight jets were launched to escort the plane.
Nearly $14,000 loss of airline
After landing at 3.23pm, all 179 passengers were made to disembark and a security sweep was conducted on the aircraft.
The flight’s entire cabin crew and pilot were also replaced, as per aviation regulations, and vouchers were disbursed to all affected passengers.
In total, the incident led to a delay of nearly five hours and caused a financial loss of $13,757.60 to the airline.