A 25-year-old Canadian man has been charged after he allegedly made "direct threats" to the safety of a flight to Panama City this morning, resulting in the plane returning to Toronto for an emergency landing.

Flight 772 turned around after 45 minutes in the air for the emergency landing at Toronto's Pearson International Airport. It was escorted by two U.S. F-16 military jets.

Ali Shahi, a Canadian citizen, has been charged with:

  • Mischief to property.
  • Mischief interfering of the lawful enjoyment of property.
  • Uttering threats.
  • Endangering the safety of an aircraft.

He is being held in custody until a bail hearing.

Ali Shahi

Ali Shahi, who currently lives in Mississauga, is alleged to have made a threat aboard a Sunwing flight en route to Panama. (Ali Shahi/Facebook)

The two U.S. F-16 fighter jets from Toledo, Ohio, were dispatched to escort the plane back to Toronto, North American Aerospace Defence Command (Norad) confirmed. The F-16s flew with the commercial plane out of U.S. airspace to Toronto as a "precaution."

The RCMP took the lead on the investigation once the plane landed at Pearson airport at 8:55 a.m. ET.

When the plane landed, a passenger on the plane said five or six officers with guns drawn boarded the plane and removed Shahi.

Shahi's father, who did not want his name used, suggested his son has mental health issues.

"I am sorry for what happened on the flight, but Ali is not at fault," he said. "I blame the police and health system. We called the police for help more than 23 times in the last two to three years, but unfortunately they did nothing to help us or help my son."

Sharon Ramsay was on the flight, headed for a vacation with her two children. It was the first time they had been on a plane. Ramsay said she was crying while the arrest was taking place.

"It was extremely scary," she said when the police stormed into the plane yelling "heads down hands up."

"The kids were scared, I was scared."

The plane was over West Virginia when it turned around.

There were 181 people, two infants, two pilots and four flight attendants on board.

Most passengers left on another flight for Panama City later on Friday.

Passengers file out of Sunwing Flight 772

Passengers on Sunwing Flight 772 get off the plane after police made an arrest on board. (Alphonso Alain)

Second diversion

Flight 772 had another diversion on Friday night after a passenger on board suffered a head injury after fainting. The plane  made an emergency landing in Montego Bay, Jamaica, landing about 6: 45 p.m. local time. It departed for Panama at 8:05 p.m.