A Malaysia Airlines plane has been forced to turn back to Melbourne airport after a passenger tried to enter the cockpit.

Flight MH128, bound for Kuala Lumpur, was forced to return “due to a disruptive passenger”, a statement from the airline said.

The airline said that the flight landed safely and the passenger was apprehended.

The passenger reportedly claimed to have explosives.

But Malaysia’s Deputy Transport Minister Abdul Aziz bin Kaprawi said “it was not a bomb but a powerbank”, according to the AFP agency.

The passenger appeared to be drunk, he said – but was overpowered by the plane’s crew.

An eyewitness calling himself Andy told Melbourne’s 3AW radio station that 10 minutes into the flight “I could hear this idiot saying that he wanted to go in to see the pilot”.

The man refused to sit down, and threatened to “blow the plane up”, he said.

“The staff screamed out ‘I need some help, I need some help’. So I jumped up, undid my buckle, and approached him,” Andy said.

He said the man ran down the plane towards the back, but was grabbed and disarmed of a black object “the size of a watermelon” which had two antennae and what appeared to be a smartphone input.

The man was restrained in hog ties, but the object remained on the plane for over an hour until passengers were allowed to leave, he added.

Victoria Police said: “The man did not gain entry to the cockpit. The man was subdued and a safety plan was enacted.”

“There appears to be no imminent threat to passengers, staff or public.”

Passengers have safely left the plane and will be screened by Australian authorities, Malaysia Airlines said.

Both the airline and Australian authorities will investigate, it added.

The statement from Malaysia Airlines said the Airbus A330 was in the air for just 30 minutes of its eight-hour flight time before landing.

Flight tracking website FlightRadar24 reported that a number of flights had been diverted while the incident was being dealt with, but that the airport is now operating as normal.

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