An Emirates flight to Newark was forced to turn back to Athens on Thursday night amidst reports of a suspected but unspecified ‘security threat’ on the aircraft and even some local media reports that a CIA-wanted terrorist could have been one of the passengers onboard.
Emirates flight EK209 departed Athens at around 5:30 pm on Thursday and was flying over Sardinia when it went into a short holding pattern and then suddenly headed back towards Greece.
Unusually, the Boeing 777-300 didn’t follow the shortest route back to Athens but instead diverted around the foot of Italy and Sicily so as to avoid flying over land. The aircraft performed a similar manoeuvre as it approached Greece and only headed inland on the final approach to Eleftherios Venizelos airport.
As reported by Twitter user Flight Emergency, both France and Italy reportedly denied the pilots of the Emirates flight permission to divert to either country. At all times, however, the crew remained in control of the aircraft, although it was flanked by two Hellenic Air Force F-16 fighter jets.
Local media report that intelligence services received information that a suspected terrorist could have been a passenger onboard one of two Emirates flights in Athens – one was bound for Dubai and was stopped before departure, while EK209 had already departed when security services were alerted.
Passengers were disembarked onto busses on arrival back in Athens, and Emirates was forced to delay the flight until Friday afternoon. It is not known whether anyone was taken into custody.
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.