The bathroom use by some passengers aroused the suspicion of fellow passengers on two flights over the skies of the U.S. on Sunday, in which fighter jets were sent to escort the planes safely to the ground.
On an American Airlines flight from Los Angeles, three passengers who made repeated trips to the bathroom were cleared after the plane safely landed at New York’s Kennedy Airport
Earlier, on a Denver-to-Detroit Frontier Airlines flight, the crew reported that two people were spending “an extraordinarily long time” in a bathroom, Frontier spokesman Peter Kowalchuck said.
Police detained three passengers at Detroit’s Metropolitan Airport, but they also were eventually released. It was reported a couple had been “making out” in the restroom.
Asked late Sunday if authorities may have overreacted, airport spokesman Scott Wintner said the airport’s response wasn’t unusual and the same steps would have been taken any other day of the year.
“Regardless of why it was triggered, whenever we get a radio call of a security problem on board, our response is the same one we would have had yesterday, tomorrow,” Wintner said.
American Airlines spokesman Tim Smith said the plane’s captain never declared a security threat and never asked for law enforcement help.
A “security concern” was brought to the airline’s attention and the crew used “normal procedures” to assess the circumstances, he said. The plane landed as planned.
“In our eyes, it’s a big nothing,” Smith added.
Still, the North American Aerospace Defense Command scrambled two F-16 fighter jets to shadow American Airlines Flight 34 until it landed safely at 4:10 p.m., the Transportation Security Administration said in a statement.
On the flight, the three passengers made repeated trips to the bathroom and some thought they were using hand signals to communicate, a law enforcement official said.
Two of the men were Israeli and one was Russian, the official said, adding that the three were cleared and sent on their way.
FBI spokesman J. Peter Donald said in a statement that the jets were sent to escort the Boeing 767-200 “out of an abundance of caution.” The FBI interviewed passengers and found “no nexus to terrorism,” he said.
In Dallas, an FBI official says a rented moving truck parked at a curb at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport also caused a brief scare on Sunday.
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