Police arrested a 62-year-old Pakistani businessman who threatened to hijack a plane at the international airport in Kota Kinabalu on Friday. The man was said to be angry over an airline staff’s request to see his passport.
The man then allegedly said: “I am going to hijack your airplane”. He was allowed into the plane and the police were called. They searched his bag and didn’t find anything that could pose a threat to others in the plane.
Kota Kinabalu City police chief Asst Comm M. Chandra said the passenger was taken into custody. “The passenger was brought to the airport police station for his statement to be recorded. It is learnt that the suspect was angry and expressed his frustration over the frequent document inspections and had disputed the regulation,” Chandra said.
On Aug 4, an AirAsia flight to Bandar Aceh, Indonesia, was delayed for nearly seven hours over a bomb joke by a passenger, who said “ada bom kot” (maybe there’s a bomb). Flight AK423 which was scheduled to take off at 7.40am at KLIA2 didn’t depart until 2.13pm.
The 129 passengers and crew were evacuated and a thorough bomb sweep was conducted on the plane and its cargo. No explosives were found, but the passenger was taken into custody.
“Don’t joke about threats in airports or planes because action can be taken,” Sepang OCPD Asst Comm Abdul Aziz Ali said.
Whether in anger or in jest, passengers shouldn’t tell the cabin crew that they intend to hijack the plane or are carrying a bomb. There are frequent cases of flights delayed and hoaxers and threatening passengers arrested all over the world.
In Kerala, security guards pounced on a passenger who said “it’s a bomb” after an airline staffer asked about the contents in his baggage.
“Passengers have been warned that bomb jokes are strictly not allowed inside the airport’s premises as false statements like these can jeopardise security, or can unnecessarily divert security and delay flights. This is the fourth time this year that we are booking a case for cracking the bomb joke,” The Hindu newspaper quoted airport security officials as saying.
The no-nonsense approach to such jokes or threats is being practised globally. How much does a flight delay cost the airline?
According to The Telegraph of Calcutta, a Bangalore techie tried to frame to frame his college sweetheart’s husband as a terrorist by issuing bomb hoaxes and messing up international flight schedules.
The stunt pulled by Gokul Machery, 23, cost the civil aviation industry Rs 6.5 crore. One crore rupees is US$148, 237, so the damage done amounts to US$963,540 (RM3.98 million).
The threats were issued pertaining to the flights Lufthansas (LH-755) and Saudi Arabiain Airlines (SV-5643), but one flight of Air France (AF-191) which had already taken off an hour back was called back too.
Are we over-reacting to such threats? In the case of Machery’s twisted plot to regain a lost love, the checks were necessary as the threats were planned ahead. However, the other threats in the other three cases mentioned earlier were made at the spur of the moment.
Has air travel become so vulnerable that every threat or joke must be lead to passenger evacuation, bomb sweep and arrest? Are we becoming paranoid when it comes to aviation safety? Are we flying with air Nazis?
Surely there is way to exercise more discretion, instead of being too paranoid or complacent. The standard operating procedures for dealing with minor and major threats are so rigid, that any joker could delay flights for hours and cost the aviation industry huge losses.