Crew member's fears lead to diverted flight


(CNN) – An American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to London was diverted to New York early Thursday after a crew member became suspicious of one of the passengers, an airline spokeswoman said.

The crew member aboard Flight 136 – scheduled to fly nonstop from Los Angeles International Airport to London Heathrow Airport – questioned a passenger whom the employee said he saw bypassing security by traveling on an employee-only bus from the parking lot to the LAX airport, according to spokeswoman Sonja Whitemon.

After that conversation, officials decided to divert the Boeing 777, Whitemon said. The plane landed at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport about 2:30 a.m. ET.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told CNN that American Airlines said in an early statement the passenger might have been an off-duty employee.

“I think they’re still in the process of sorting this out,” he said of airport officials. “It may turn out that this is nothing more than a misunderstanding with an employee who used an employee bus to get on a plane for a private flight.”

Whitemon told CNN the passenger is not an American Airlines employee.

According to Russ Knocke, with the Department of Homeland Security, American Airlines security officials identified the man as an executive platinum traveler with the airline who purchased his round-trip ticket on April 19.

Knocke did not say whether the man had proper identification when he boarded the employee shuttle and passed through the employee access-only entrance.

“The good news here is that you have somebody who’s alert on the crew and they take appropriate steps at that point to deal with what might be a potentially dangerous situation,” Chertoff said. “That’s exactly what we are asking people to do: If you see something, say something.”

Anthony Loynes, one of the 188 passengers aboard the flight, told CNN the pilot told passengers the plane was stopping at JFK because the plane did not have enough fuel to make it to London.

Shortly after landing, Loynes said, security officials boarded the plane and left with a man of “Middle Eastern descent.” A woman sitting next to the man was also questioned, he added.

All passengers were subsequently taken off the plane and the cabin was scheduled to undergo a security sweep, the airlines spokeswoman said.

The plane left Los Angeles at about 6 p.m. (9 p.m. ET) Wednesday night, and had been scheduled to arrive in London at 12:25 p.m. (7:25 a.m. ET). Most or all of the passengers were put on another American Airlines flight, which was scheduled to arrive at Heathrow at 8:25 p.m. Thursday (3:25 p.m. ET)


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I consider the diversion appropriate, but the “not enough gas to get to our destination” excuse…? :unamused: Certainly a good excuse for not continuing on to the destination without causing any panic in the passengers, but c’mon. Can’t we think of a better excuse???


Why didn’t someone on the employee bus question him? Don’t you need a badge to get on the employee bus?


Perhaps a $2.00 CREW TAG on your luggage is all that’s needed to avoid any suspicion…


I’ve never been responsible for security at an airport, but I can’t believe that nowadays it’s much different than what was required at hazardous waste sites and nuclear plants where I used to work.

Access was controlled based on HAZMAT level by color coded photo IDs. IDs were worn on the outside of clothing whenever an individual was onsite. Personnel without a visible photo ID or without the correct color ID for a specific area were to be stopped and questioned by the first person to notice the discrepancy.


“The good news here is that you have somebody who’s alert on the crew and they take appropriate steps at that point to deal with what might be a potentially dangerous situation,” Chertoff said. “That’s exactly what we are asking people to do: If you see something, say something.”

I’m confused as to how this is good news. How about saying something BEFORE the plane crosses the country…


My point exactly! That, to me, is bad news because the person should have been stopped before he got on the bus.


Notice that the man was of Middle Eastern descent. Why does the term “practice run to get around security” come to mind?


When I was with AA at DFW in the late 80’s - early 90’s you could park in the North lot and walk, or the South lot where you showed only your AA employee badge to a guard at the entrance of the lot. You kind of just waved it at him through the window of your vehicle as you drove through…so it didn’t necessarily have to be your badge :unamused: …you got on the bus no other questions asked. When you reached the terminal/ramp areas you either went through security screening like everyone else, or through a revolving gate to the ramp or electronic door accessing the terminal, both activated by your DFW airport issued badge which required a back-ground check to have. The problem with the door was that several people could enter on the first person’s badge swipe. We were issued memo after memo warning not to do it or allow it…like that would solve the issue. They finally changed the access method sometime after I left the company.


Sounds like the process when I walk into Costco and flash a card, could be mine or yours. Why do they always divert to New York? Wouldn’t it make sense to divert to someplace remote?


Probably so the other passengers can have a flight to continue on to London. Diverting to JFK would have caused the aircraft to have less fuel available because JFK usually isn’t under the route of a LAX/LHR nonstop.


But isn’t NYC the preferred target of most Jihadists? Why divert to NYC (or anywhere populated) area if you think you have one or more Jihadists on board? I think they should go to Canada.