Peel police arrested a Sunwing Airlines passenger who forced a Panama-bound flight to return to Pearson International Airport about 45 minutes after takeoff on Friday.
The airline said not long after the plane Flight 772 left at 7 a.m., an agitated traveller “made a direct threat against the aircraft.”
Another passenger told CityNews the man got angry at a flight attendant, apparently after learning the duty-free items he wanted were not available..
“He wanted to buy some stuff with the duty-free, and he said to the girl, ‘Cigarettes,’ or something like this. And she said, ‘Sorry, we don’t have this on Sunwing Airlines,’” he said.
It’s alleged the man mentioned a bomb and said everyone on the plane was going to die.
“We saw lots of policemen coming on and they were scary,” a woman said.
“They had their guns out, in full riot gear. The kids were scared. We were told to put our heads down and our hands up.”
There were 183 passengers and a crew of six on board at the time.
The pilot turned the flight around and — accompanied by two U.S. fighter jets — landed safely at Pearson around 9 a.m.
Members of the Peel Police Emergency Response Unit were there to meet the plane and arrested a 25-year-old Canadian man named Ali Shahi.
He faces charges of mischief to property, mischief interfering with lawful enjoyment of property, uttering threats and endangering the safety of an aircraft.
He has a bail hearing on Saturday.
Police said there were no injuries or damage and they were searching the plane as a precaution.
“We are pleased to advise that all customers are safe and generally in good spirits,” the airline said in a statement.
“Sunwing is providing customers with complimentary meals and other assistance while they await the official start of their vacation.”
The passengers were expected to leave for Panama later on Friday on a different plane and with a new crew, Sunwing president Mark Williams said.
The scare comes right after three deadly airline disasters around the world. Since last week, a Malaysia Airlines plane carrying 298 people was shot down over Ukraine; an Air Algerie jetliner carrying 116 people crashed in a rainstorm over Mali; and 48 people died when a TransAsia Airways flight crash landed during a storm.
Earlier this week, some international airlines cancelled flights to Tel Aviv after a rocket landed near the city’s airport.