Indonesian politician blocks runway in air rage outburst

Indonesian politician blocks runway in air rage outburst

JAKARTA - An Indonesian district chief got revenge on an airline that refused to let him board a full flight by sending officials to block the runway and stop the plane landing, authorities said Monday.

Marianus Sae, head of Ngada district in the eastern island of Flores, wanted to get home quickly to Ngada from the city of Kupang on Timor island so that he could attend a meeting.

But state-owned Merpati Nusantara airlines refused to sell him a ticket for a flight to Turelelo Soa airport early on Saturday because it was full.

"It is outrageous," Sae was quoted as saying by the Jakarta Globe newspaper.

"I begged for a ticket for five hours to fly to Ngada and their answer was: 'The flight is full'."

The infuriated district chief ordered public order officers - who have more limited powers than police and come under the authority of local governments - to drive cars onto the runway and stop the plane landing, media reports said.

The handful of staff at the airport could not stop the blockade and the airport remained shut for several hours, officials said.

Merpati spokesman Riswanto Chendra Putra confirmed the plane was forced to turn back due to the blockade.

However he added that two of the plane's 56 seats had become available at the last minute - but by then Sae had already bought a ticket to travel with another airline.

Transport ministry spokesman Bambang Ervan said the district chief had "tarnished the reputation of the aviation industry".

But he said the ministry had no plans to take legal action, adding such matters were the responsibility of the police.

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