A hoax bomb threat to Air India’s Mumbai to Newark flight on Thursday forced it to divert to an airport near London, where it was escorted by Royal Air Force’s fighter jets. The plane, with 327 passengers, landed safely and following a security drill resumed its journey after a delay of more than six hours.
“AI 191 (Mumbai-Newark) was diverted to London Stansted airport around 9.50 a.m. local time on June 27, following reports of a security alert. All 327 passengers were deplaned and served snacks and beverages,” Air India’s spokesperson said.
The drama unfolded after a mail was sent to Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Airport about a bomb threat.
Six hours after the plane landed at London Stansted and was taken to an isolation bay for a detailed security drill, the local police gave the aircraft an all-clear. The plane was rescheduled to take off for Newark at 5 p.m. local time.
“Following investigations on the plane, we have now been able to establish there is nothing suspicious on board. The aircraft has been handed back to STN_Airport (Stansted) and the operator,” the Essex Police posted on Twitter.
But the news from Mumbai had already created panic and UK’s Royal Air Force (RAF) scrambled its fighter jets to intercept the Air India flight and escort it to the airport.
“Quick Reaction Alert Typhoons were scrambled earlier from @RAFConingsby to intercept a civilian aircraft; this was safely escorted to Stansted. The Typhoons were authorised to travel at supersonic speed and any inconvenience caused to local residents is regretted,” the RAF said on Twitter.
Life term for 2017 case
Earlier this month, an Indian businessman, Birju Salla, was given a life imprisonment and imposed a fine of ₹5 crore by a NIA court for placing a hoax hijack note on a Jet Airways plane in October 2017.
This was the first conviction under the amended anti-hijack law that was notified in 2017, which broadens the definition of hijack and provides for punishments up to death penalty.