A British couple have spoken of their terror over a possible arson incident after three fires apparently started aboard their flight to Abu Dhabi.
Gillian and Paul Mason were returning home to Blackburn from a month-long holiday in Tasmania when their flight was forced to make an emergency landing in Indonesia because, it is claimed, two fires were detected when the plane was 10,600m (35,000ft) in the air.
Passengers allegedly became aware of the situation when staff on the Etihad Airways flight “flew down the aisle” towards a burning smell coming from the plane toilets.
The smoke detected in two toilets after take-off from Melbourne on Monday prompted a precautionary diversion to Jakarta, Indonesia, as the plane made its way to its destination of Abu Dhabi, according to the airline.
Passengers were put through a security check at a Jakarta before everyone was allowed to re-board the flight and continue the journey.
Ms Mason said no-one knew if anyone responsible for setting the fires had been caught.
The airline has confirmed that smoke was detected on a further occasion after the plane took off from Jakarta despite staff guarding the plane toilets.
Ms Mason told Metro that they were told “the plane would have burst into flames if it the fire had been spotted 90 seconds later.”
“It feels like an absolute miracle that the plane didn’t go down and it was a massive relief to be able to get into the airport when we arrived in Abu Dhabi,” she said.
The airline said a “comprehensive investigation” into the incidents on board the EY 461 flight was underway.
“The aircraft was searched and released shortly after arrival at Abu Dhabi when it was confirmed it was safe to do so. Etihad Airways is cooperating fully in this investigation.
”This follows a precautionary diversion to Jakarta where a security assessment of the situation was conducted with local authorities after smoke was detected in two of the toilets. The decision was made to resume the flight after a security search of the aircraft, passengers and their carry-on luggage.
“To further ensure the safety of passengers and crew, the Captain implemented strict controls over passenger movement in the cabin, particularly passenger access to the toilets. The normal service was suspended to allow cabin crew to monitor and ensure the security of the cabin.”
The UAE's aviation regulator, the General Civil Aviation Authority, said it is involved in the investigation and confirmed that no arrests have been made.