A NORTH-EAST man jailed for a drunken threat to hijack an Australian plane promised last night that he would never fool around on an aircraft again.

After emerging from prison in Australia, Tom Lilico promised that from now on "it is strictly tape over the mouth" whenever he is on an aircraft.

The 22-year-old, from Darlington, was freed after serving two weeks of a one-month sentence at the Lotus Glen Correctional Centre, near Cairns.

A judge used new anti-terrorist legislation to send him to jail.

Lilico had been overheard by a Qantas flight attendant, on a January 1 domestic flight in Australia, saying that he was planning to pull a knife and hijack the plane.

Last night, Lilico said he had drunk so much he could not remember making the remarks.

"I can't remember saying the comment that was alleged," he said, although he had admitted in court to making threatening comments.

"I didn't have a knife with me, so I have no idea why I would say something like that."

Lilico was asleep by the time security staff came to remove him from the plane, which had been due to take off for Darwin.

He later told police he had consumed eight pints of beer in the hours before the boarding the aircraft.

He said that he "nearly collapsed" when the jail sentence was handed down to him. However, he said he had been treated well in prison.

"The inmates found it really funny.

"At the same time, a lot of them were sympathetic and thought I shouldn't have been there," he said.

Lilico, a fine arts graduate who had planned to stay in Australia until March on a working holiday, said he may head home sooner than expected.

"Obviously, there is a lot of paranoia about these sorts of things at the moment and (the authorities) are not to know whether somebody is being serious or not," he said.

Lilico was the first person jailed in Australia for making threatening comments on board an aircraft since September 11, 2001.

"I am relieved it's all over," he said.

"I have just got to put it down to a life experience and move on. But it's strictly tape over the mouth now when I get on a plane."