Air France Airbus A330 Abandons Transatlantic Crossing Following Suspicious Discovery

An Air France flight inbound to the US has diverted to Ireland after the crew discovered a ‘un-owned’ mobile phone onboard the aircraft. The device was removed from the aircraft and the plane refueled before continuing on its journey 3.5 hours delayed.

An Air France A330 was diverted due to the unknown device found onboard. Photo: Air France

What are the details?

Air France flight AF-136 was flying from Paris Charles de Gaulle, France to Chicago O’Hare, USA when the cabin crew reported something a little unusual to the cockpit, as initially reported by The Aviation Herald.

They were northwest of Shannon, Ireland and about to begin the journey across the Atlantic when the flight attendants reported a mobile phone had been found onboard not belonging to any passenger. As mobile phones are not allowed to be active during flights, and unclaimed luggage / personal items are illegal, the mobile phone was regarded with suspicion.

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Air France
The initial route of the aircraft as part of its diversion. Photo: Flight Aware

Sensing it was better safe than sorry, the flight crew decided to divert to Shannon, Ireland to drop off the mobile phone and ensure that there were no other items onboard that were unclaimed.

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The A330-200, tail number registration F-GZCI, landed safety and was able to remove the device from their custody. The aircraft was refueled and arrived in Chicago delayed by approximately three and a half hours.

According to follow up reports, local authorities at Shannon inspected the phone and found it to be safe. The common theory now is that the phone was left by a previous customer on an earlier flight and it became wedged in a seat cavity. There has been so far no news as to whether the phone had been passed back to the aforementioned passenger.

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Mobile phones must be one of the many items lost onboard aircraft every day. Source: Pexels

Why did the aircraft divert for a mobile phone?

Naturally, commentators have raised questions regarding why the aircraft diverted for such a simple reason; that a phone was found onboard.

But we have to keep in mind that a device like that could be anything and if no one onboard owns it then it is a security risk. And in this day and age, it is better to be safe than sorry.

One commentator suggested that “As the security screening status of the device was unknown, it could not legally be brought into US airspace by a non-US airline.

Simple Flying got in touch with Air France who supplied this comment:

Air France confirms that the crew of flight AF136 from Paris CDG to Chicago O’Hare (ORD) on 20 October 2019 decided to divert as a precautionary measure after a mobile phone was found and not claimed by the passengers on board.

The plane landed at Shannon (SNN) in Ireland to hand over the phone to the authorities before leaving for Chicago where the plane landed at 8:26 pm.
Air France would like to remind you that all passengers, crew members and staff are subject to a screening inspection before being allowed to board a flight and that flight safety and its absolute imperative.

Some are saying that its the fault of the cabin crew or cleaning crew for not finding the device during the layover in Paris (the plane had previously flown in from Lagos) but again if it had been wedged away it is likely to be overlooked.

Obviously, it is not the fault of the passenger who lost the phone that the flight crew decided to turn around and perform this unscheduled stop. Some commentators say that they should be found and punished, but as someone who is addicted to their device, I think to lose your phone is punishment enough.

What do you think? Did Air France do the right thing or should they have kept going? Let us know in the comments.

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Nicholas

They did the right thing.

Nicole Jahoda

Yes, Air Frame did the right thing

Arlene

Ofcourse, AF did the right thing. As was said, better safe than sorry.

Reece Makinson

THEY COULD HAVE HAD A MOBILE BOMB DETECTOR AND SCAN THE PHONE

Paul Sale

A phone makes a great detonator but there’s no room for explosives in it.

Johnny T

Good point.

JFP

Did the right thing! Bravo!!!

Tom Hutchins

As you previously alluded to,
Someone lost their phone. Most of us would be devastated. We do not know if it was a smart phone.
However caution and safety go hand in hand.
Air France crew members did the right thing.
If it was brought to the USA, I am sure somehow before the owner could get it back before they paid a tariff

JHS

“Devastated”? It’s a phone. Easily replaced.

Capt Lou

interesting article…VERY misleading headline: The aircraft “diverted” it didn’t “ditch”, there is a difference!!!

Christian

Bad choice of words in this scenario, even if it is an informal term..

Lenny Mashavha

Far too often Simply Flying article headlines are sensationalized and appear very “clickbaity”, not cool at all.

Paul Sale

It doesn’t say “ditch”.

Paul

You are correct Paul . It didn’t say ditch.

jeff

Yes, they did the right thing. A phone has everything it needs to be a great bomb. Set the altimeter to detect high cabin altitude (above 5000 feet), or to respond to a call from a specific number, or to go off if tampered with.

Paul Sale

Can trigger a bomb but cannot contain explosives.

Alex

And I’m sure the Captain came over the PA stating: ” Ladies and Gentlemen we’re ditching our flight”…You’d be happy with that???????

Matt

It was unfortunately the correct decision. The cleaning staff needs to be looked at though, since they should have caught it. Remember back in the day how much cleaner aircraft were, especially on long haul flights. Also what ever happened to the cloth on your headrest? Today I find too much garbage, even in first class.

jim

Ridiculous waste of time an resources. Can’t let irrational fear disrupt everyday life like this. People drop cell phones in seat cracks all the time by accident. 300 passengers and crew delayed extra 3.5 hours (plus time lost if connections missed) = over 1000 hours or 50 days of life missed as a result of this. Better to apply those resources to making roads safer or better medical care. Creating this sort of inconvenient expensive paranoia plays EXACTLY into the goal of terrorists.

Nic

Jim: be quiet

John Stanwix

They’ve could contact operations and they would give the seat number. Then operations would contact the passenger.

Juma

It was good decision for Air France to divert and get assurance with the security. To me security should come first than sorry.

Michael Hart

There should be something like a toilet flush for items like this. Given it was a security risk, the risk was present landing at all, not just in the USA.

Paul Sale

Save time and money by throwing it out the cockpit window at +/- 8,000 feet.

Alex

Wrong decision. Since all “passenger belongings” aboard a plane have passed through security, the reasonable thing to do would be to keep going. But silly regulations dictated that they had to declare an alert, divert to the nearest airport, dump fuel, etc. The 9/11 monsters used box cutters and several attacks were thwarted by intelligence, not some shmuck sizing a toothpaste or confiscating water bottles.

Matt

It’s a standard procedure.

Johnny T

How can one blame a previous passenger for not knowing it was left on that aircraft? A thorough interview should be conducted, but to do so can be far from ideal. Best to educate passengers however.

Firoza Hossen

It was a right thing to do….better late than never.

Muzzem

Air France did the right thing. Unfortunately they can’t be too careful.

Paul

They were correct to divert .

Jeth Dayo

Air France did the right thing. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Lives are way more valuable over times lost and cost of fuel spent on diverting the flight.