By Srijan Sen
Last week, two U.S commercial airlines – Southwest Airlines flight 2492 out of Milwaukee and Delta Airlines flight 1156 out of Portland, Oregon – heading to Atlanta were targets of a bomb threat made via social media.
Both planes landed safely at their destination where a thorough search revealed threat as a hoax.
After being alerted of the situation, North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) scrambled two F-16 fighter jets from McEntire Joint National Guard Base in South Carolina to escort the flights till their destination.
Upon landing, the airplanes were isolated, searched and passengers rescanned before being disembarked.
Neither the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is leading the investigation, nor the airport confirmed the source of the threats although authorities say the investigation is ongoing. According to a FBI statement, all threats are being taken seriously and will be further investigated.
A recent flurry of hoax bomb threats created disturbances for passengers and airport authorities alike.
Airline bomb threats made via Twitter disrupted sixteen flights in the last week, most recently affecting an American Airlines flight bound for Chicago following a tweet claiming to be from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).
This incident comes five days after bomb threats were made against two other Delta flights. One was arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York from San Francisco and another departing New York airport for Tel Aviv.
However, as with the case of a 14-year-old Dutch girl who threatened American Airlines last year as a joke, not every tweet is serious.
“In the history of aviation sabotage, I don’t believe there’s ever been a threat called in where there’s actually been a bomb,” Douglas Laird, consultant and former security director at Northwest Airlines, told USA Today.
Airline officials and the FBI have not made any comments since the incident as it remains unclear whether any connection exists between the consecutive threats over a short period of time.
Twitter handle @kingZortic was the source of the threats, but has since been suspended. Delta Airlines replied to @kingZortic on Twitter saying the company takes all threats seriously and the comments have been reported to its corporate security team for further review or action.
Shortly after the incident, Southwest Airlines also released a statement detailing the events relating to flight 2492 and reassuring the company’s primary concern for overall security.
“Our top priority is the safety of our customers and employees.
We cannot comment on the nature of the security situation,” the statement said.