Yesterday, an Etihad Airbus had to be escorted into Stansted (the designated airport for handling possible terrorism and aircraft hijackings) by two RAF Typhoon jets.
It is understandable that an airline would want to downplay the seriousness of such an incident but Etihad’s statement to the press was particularly foolish.
“It was a question of inappropriate comments made on the flight and a disruptive passenger. There was no threat to the safety of the aircraft or the passengers.”
I beg to differ.
The point of sending the RAF Typhoons to “escort” the aircraft to Stansted was so that, if necessary, they could blow up the aircraft if it was in danger of being used in a 9/11-type incident.
Unfortunately, passengers cause disruption to flights almost every day and, normally, the aircraft’s Captain makes a decision either to continue to the destination with the passenger in some form of restraint or he decides to land at the next suitable airport to unload the miscreant.
The Etihad aircraft was heading to Heathrow so it was only a few minutes away. There can only be two possibilities:
- The Pilot gave an exaggerated description of the problem to ATC who decided to be ultra-cautious and scrambled the jets.
- There was some form of genuine threat.
Arab airlines hate any form of negtaive publicity and, some of them, have been known to “avoid” discussion of safety problems. I rather thought Etihad was more westernised in its approach but it appears not.
It would be quite understandable if an airline said that the diversion was ultra-cautious and stressed that the landing was perfectly normal and all the passengers were safe but to say this was just a harmless incident caused by a drunk passenger is an insult to the intelligence and suggests that Etihad have a lot to learn if they wish to be regarded as a sophisticated airline.