As a person who travels often on business I have had my share of weather delays, mechanical delays, inexpiable delays, and unruly passengers. Unfortunately it is part of travel. It was not until today that I was delayed due to a bomb threat.
This was not a terrorist bomb threat. It was an inconsiderate adult passenger who had a tantrum. When the passenger was was bumped from my Newark United Flight UA1294 bound for Miami at 9:11 am this morning he was angry that his bags could not be removed from the flight. When he could not get his bags back he told an United agent that his bag contained a bomb. He was later arrested in another terminal trying to catch a flight to Miami with another airline.
After boarding the plane this morning at around 8:45 am, the doors were closed and we moved away from the gate. After the safety videos were completed the pilot announced that we had to head back to the gate for a minor issue.
Shortly after returning to the gate we were told that there was an issue with a checked piece of baggage and the bag needed to be located.(hmmm this didnt sound quite right…) For about the next half hour we sat waiting for the “problem baggage” to be located. At around 10 am the pilot announced that to follow security protocol our plane was going to be towed to a remote part of the tarmac and that all checked bags would be removed from the plane, port authority dogs would be brought in, and we would all be removed from the plane put on a bus and be brought back to the terminal. (see I knew the problem bag…. sounded fishy)
Each bag was laid out on the tarmac with several feet of distance between each bag. Large black bomb sniffing dogs “sniffed” each bag. It took about 40 minutes to do this. During this time we were updated regularly by the crew. Passengers were calm, and there were no issues on board the plane.
Once the checked bags were unloaded from the plane we were then asked to gather our belongings and we were removed from the plane 20 passengers at a time.
After deplaning we were instructed to put our carry-on luggage on to the tarmac where it would be “sniffed” by the dogs. It was on the tarmac that I was able to hear the port authority officer talk about what had transpired earlier in the morning. It was cold and windy on the tarmac, but the search was done in a matter of minutes and we boarded
a heated bus. We were driven away from the plane and waited for the rest of the passengers. The rest of the search took another 40 minutes. Two united officials then boarded our bus and told us that instead of going back to the terminal that we would all be brought back to the plane. (yay!) They insured us that the plane was safe. By a little after 12 we were en route to Miami with no further incidents – thank goodness.
I have to say that United handled the situation well. We were well informed every step of the way, even as plans changed. Unfortunately there were passengers who missed connections, and I am sure those who were trying to make their 4 PM cruise were not so lucky. At the end of the day we were all safe – which is really the most important thing.
Because I used Twitter while this was all happening several news outlets contacted me to use the photos that I took with my cell phone. A few even interviewed me. Kudos to reporter Liz Nager for finding me in Miami due to my foursquare check in!
VIDEO and Print COVERAGE: