SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ An American Airlines flight bound for New York City was halted just before takeoff today after someone called police and threatened to hijack the jetliner, authorities said.
American Airlines Flight 24 was grounded at San Francisco International airport at about 7:30 a.m. After nearly five hours, the passengers were removed from the plane and taken by buses to a terminal where they were sent through security again.
Passenger Michael Kidd told The Associated Press that he saw uniformed police officers handcuffing a young man and a young woman sitting in the back row.
Another passenger Jay Sears said that he saw the Pakistani couple being taken off through the back of the plane in handcuffs while the rest of the passengers exited through the front.
Officials now say after questioning that couple that they had nothing to do with the threat and will not be arrested. Authorities also say it appears the threat itself was “not credible.”
A law enforcement official says the threat call originated from a hotel in Alameda to the city’s police department, and officials there quickly notified federal authorities. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to release the information.
The plane was taken to an isolated part of the tarmac and buses were pulled up near the jet to shuttle the passengers back to the terminal.
Passenger Randy Cohen said the atmosphere on the plane was generally calm even though passengers got little explanation about why the plane had been diverted. But he said rumors about a hijacking or bomb threat began floating around among passengers connected to the Internet. At the same time, via its Twitter feed, American Airlines reassured a passenger sending out tweets from aboard the aircraft.
“Hang in there,” the airline said, “the authorities are taking care of things.”