Terrorist Threat Prompts New York JetBlue Flight Evacuation

A JetBlue flight in New York has been evacuated after flight attendants received a photo of a suicide bomb vest, delivered directly to their phones as the plane taxied for takeoff.

JetBlue-a320
The JetBlue aircraft was taxiing at the runway when the incident occurred. Photo: JetBlue

What are the details?

JetBlue flight 573 was taxiing at Newark Liberty International Airport to take off to Tampa International Airport when two flight attendants on board got an airdrop notification on their iPhones.

Airdrop, or Bluetooth file transfer, is a way of sending content from one Apple device to another without using the internet, WiFi or mobile networks. As such, files can be sent anonymously and delivered without first asking for permission. Both flight attendants had their phones as ‘discoverable’ and, without warning, got a photo sent to them.

In this case, the photo turned out to be of a suicide bomb vest normally associated with terrorist activities.

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Clearly very concerned, the flight attendants told the captain about the image, who made the decision to taxi the aircraft to a remote stand and deplane the passengers. A passenger, Thomas Desmond, told NBC News,

“We pull up to the gate and then we pull away and the captain comes on and says there’s been a security threat. It was nervous when you see Port Authority police officers coming onto your plane and you just have no idea what’s going on.”

All 150 passengers were taken back to the terminal where they were they underwent extra security screening. All luggage was also removed and examined, with security crews combing the aircraft. They even brought out special bomb-sniffing K9 police dogs to look over all areas of the aircraft.

According to NBC News, a spokesman said,

“Out of an abundance of caution, the plane was moved to remote area and passengers were deplaned and bused to the terminal … passengers and luggage would be rescreened.”

Eventually, the crew and passengers were given the all-clear and the aircraft continued on towards their original destination.

Was the threat real?

The FAA and other authorities such as the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey are investigating this incident and treating it as an active threat. Currently, they do not know who sent the message.

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All 150 passengers had to be deplaned and rescreened. Photo: Flickr user Tomás Del Coro

Judging by the story, it seems like a prank by one of the passengers who realized that the flight attendants had not turned their deceives to flight mode. A simple Google search later and they would have had all the evidence needed to delay the flight. However, if they were a passenger then they likely got what they deserved with the additional screening and security checks. It’s just unfortunate that other passengers got caught up in this as well.

In this day and age, we can not be too vigilant and it is a good sign that the captain took the steps necessary to ensure that his passengers were safe, at the cost of the airline’s schedule.

What would you have done? Let us know in the comments. 

1 comment
  1. Nicolas,
    you are way off in your thinking that a terror threat delaying the prankster as well as others, is sufficient punishment. It’s likely a Federal offense, terrorist threat, and a huge financial cost to the airline, airports, and all the passengers themselves. If you want to deter others from acting like dumb asses too, Send a Very Loud message…
    Identify the prankster, prosecute to fullest, no plea deal, toss them into jail, fine them for Everyone’s cost of lost time, and finally, put them on the No Fly List for 5 years….Publicize it and watch how no one else copies it. While you may think it’s harsh, it’s what’s needed.

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