The Indian Air Force scrambled fighter jets to intercept an Iranian passenger jet after a bomb threat was made against the flight, but the pilots said they were unwilling to land and after circling close to New Dehli for a short time the flight carried out as normal.
The airline involved in Monday morning’s incident was not named by the IAF but a Mahan Air passenger jet flying from Tehran to Guangzhou, China was flying through Indian air space at the time the fighter jets were scrambled.
The 18-year-old Airbus A340 aircraft went into a holding pattern to the west of New Dehli and circled three times before continuing onto Guangzhou according to data provided by Flight Radar 24.
The IAF says it scrambled fighter jets to intercept the aircraft after a bomb threat was received while over Indian air space. The pilots initially requested the option to divert to Delhi airport but the IAF declined that request.
Instead, two other diversion airports close by were suggested, but both were rejected by the pilots.
A short time later, the pilots were advised by officials in Tehran to disregard the bomb threat and continue the flight as normal.
“On 3 October, intimation was received of a bomb scare on an airline bearing Iranian registration, when it was transiting through Indian airspace. IAF fighter aircraft were scrambled, which followed the aircraft at a safe distance,” the Indian Air Force said in a statement.
“Aircraft was offered option to land at Jaipur and then, at Chandigarh. But pilot declared his unwillingness to divert to either of them,” the statement continued. “After a while intimation was received from Tehran to disregard bomb scare. Aircraft continued on its journey towards final destination.”
Bomb threats are an occupational hazard of running an international airline, and internal airline security teams routinely work alongside various government agencies to assess whether these threats should be taken seriously.
In the vast majority of cases, bomb threats aren’t assessed to be serious and flights continue as normal – in many cases without the pilots even being informed about the threat.
In 2021, Belarusian officials called in a fake bomb threat against a Ryanair flight so as to force the plane to land in Minsk. The hoax was part of an elaborate ploy to arrest a dissident journalist who happened to be a passenger on the flight from Athens to Vilnius.
In that incident, it was Ryanair’s stand procedure to continue the flight as normal to Lithuania, but Misnk air traffic control managed to convince the pilots to ignore protocol and land in Belarus.
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.