SAA hijack false alarm 'of grave concern'

2013-08-06 19:18

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South African Airways (SAA) says it will work with the relevant authorities to get to the bottom of a “false hijack notification” involving one of its aircraft. Tlali Tlali, SAA spokesperson, confirmed that this afternoon one of its planes, SA 417 from OR Tambo International Airport to Port Elizabeth Airport, was the subject of a false hijack notification that saw emergency personnel and police being dispatched to the Eastern Cape airport to verify the threat. “This is a matter of grave concern to us. We want to find out where it originated from. These kinds of things cannot be taken lightly,” Tlali said. One of the passengers who was on board the aircraft and wishes to remain anonymous said everything seemed normal until they arrived at the Port Elizabeth Airport.

“First, the captain announced that we would land 20 minutes before the time, so we were all excited. But when we landed at the airport we noticed there was a lot of activity on the ground. There were emergency personnel. There were ambulances on standby. We were told to produce our documents and told there had been a security threat on our plane,” said the passenger.

Flight SA 417 landed at the Port Elizabeth Airport at 14.30pm instead of the scheduled time of 14.50pm, where it was received by the police's Tactical Response Team and emergency personnel.

At least three fire trucks, three ambulances and a number of police vehicles could be seen at the airport. According to the passenger everybody cooperated with the authorities. “Everybody was calm and cooperated. In the end we were told we could all go home and that there was nothing to worry about,” said the passenger. Tlali said an emergency alert was activated following the false hijack notification. “Once an emergency alert has been activated it cannot be halted. It has to be followed through as a standard procedure to a point where the security personnel is satisfied,” he said.

Eastern Cape police spokesperson Brigadier Miranda Mills could not be reached for comment.

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