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.

Air France Airbus A330 Abandons Transatlantic Crossing Following Suspicious Discovery
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.

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.

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.

Air France Airbus A330 Abandons Transatlantic Crossing Following Suspicious Discovery
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.