A group of American Airlines flight attendants and pilots have been robbed at gunpoint after their crew minibus was held up by armed robbers on the way to San José International Airport in Costa Rica. American Airlines says it has implemented “enhanced” security measures to protect crew who are due to stay in the city in the coming days.
American Airlines flight AA1204 from San Jose to Miami on Tuesday was delayed by over seven hours following the traumatizing incident in which one crew member reportedly had a gun pointed held at his head as robbers demanded the other flight attendants and pilots hand over their mobile phones and other valuables.
According to aviation blogger Gary Leff, the crew had been picked up at 3.40 am from their crew hotel and were on the way to the airport for a 5.20 am departure when their van ran over a large plastic box that had been placed in the road.
When the driver stopped to remove the box from underneath the van, armed robbers pounced on the vehicle with one armed assailant jumping in the driver’s seat and demanding the crew hand over their mobile phones while brandishing a knife at them.
A second robber then got into the back of the van and held a gun at the head of one of the crew members while collecting the phones and valuables from the Miami-based crew members.
The ordeal was said to be over quickly and none of the crew were said to be physically injured during the assault. The driver then returned to the safety of the crew hotel.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Dallas Fort Worth-based airline confirmed the incident saying: “We are aware that our crew members, unfortunately, fell victim to a crime while en route to Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) on March 16.”
“Our security team is in close contact with local law enforcement and have acted quickly to implement enhanced measures to ensure the safety of our team members.”
Thankfully, such incidents are incredibly rare but in 2019 a group of two pilots and eight flight attendants working for Air Europa were victims of an attempted armed robbery after their bus was attacked while driving from the airport to the crew hotel in downtown Caracas, Venezuela.
The robbery occurred at the height of civil unrest in the country and after other airlines had suspended operations to Caracas over fears it was simply too unsafe. Local media reported that hotel security staff exchanged gunfire with the robbers in order to protect the crew members.
The same year, a flight attendant for Norwegian was robbed at gunpoint just moments after walking out of their hotel in downtown Buenos Aires. The crew member was unhurt.
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Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.