A Jetstar Japan flight operating a domestic flight between Tokyo and Fukuoka was forced to make an emergency landing in Chubu on Saturday morning after someone phoned Tokyo’s Narita Airport and claimed a bomb was onboard the aircraft.
The suspect allegedly demanded to speak to an airline manager and threatened to detonate the improvised explosive device if the demand wasn’t met.
Jetstar flight GK501 departed Tokyo Narita Airport at 6:35 am on Saturday before it diverted from its planned route shortly after the bomb threat had been called in. The Airbus A320 aircraft landed safely, but passengers were evacuated onto the runway via emergency slides.
The budget carrier reported 136 passengers and six pilots and cabin crew were onboard the aircraft. Five people were injured during the evacuation.
According to Japanese broadcaster NHK, a man called Narita Airport from Germany and made the bomb threat in English. He claimed a 100-kilogram bomb had been hidden in the cargo hold of the aircraft.
Unsurprisingly, law enforcement have so far found no evidence of a suspect device onboard the aircraft.
Bomb threats are made relatively frequently against commercial aircraft and every single threat has to be assessed by security experts and law enforcement. The vast majority of these threats are graded as low-risk and no immediate action is taken.
In some rare cases, however, further action has to be taken. In even rarer cases, intelligence services believe the threat is so serious that a decision is made to order the aircraft to land immediately and have passengers evacuated.
This is a particularly tricky decision to make because, as happened in this latest incident, the risk of passengers and crew being injured during the evacuation is normally much higher than the threat of a bomb actually being onboard the aircraft.
Last year, two Wizz Air flights were evacuated within a space of a week following anonymous bomb threats. In the second case, passengers on a flight from Israel to Poland were kept onboard the aircraft for 30 minutes before an evacuation was suddenly ordered.
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.