Hundreds of travellers were left stranded when their flight was evacuated because a mobile hotspot named “Jihadi London” was detected before takeoff. The passengers were due to board the Thomson flight from the Mexican tourist resort of Cancun to London Gatwick, but extra security checks meant it couldn’t leave the airport.
The WiFi network name was spotted by a passenger resulting in the plane getting grounded.
Surrey Advertiser sub-editor Carey Middleton was among those held up as a result of this and she reported on the incident.
Mrs Middleton, from Guildford, said: “Everyone had boarded and it was all okay for a while but before we left the stand, the captain announced a passenger had told or shown a crew member a ‘hot point’ had appeared on their phone saying ‘Jihadi London’. He said he needed to tell us this as it was only on our aircraft and obviously very concerning and he couldn’t depart knowing this. He asked that if anyone knew anything about this they should come forward. Obviously, nobody did so and after another 30 minutes, we’d been on board about an hour by then with passengers getting more anxious, the police came on board.”
She continued: “The captain said he understood a few passengers were very concerned and wanted to get off the plane but to bear with him. After about another 20 to 30 minutes, he said the company’s security team had security checked all passengers and deemed there was no risk. By this time, babies and children were crying and they’d had to refuel the aircraft, etc. Although the captain said he wouldn’t fly unless he was 100% sure it was safe, and he felt it was okay after the extra security checks, some passengers still wanted to leave. As they needed to unload their baggage, this then put the crew over their mandatory hours and we were unable to fly.”
Mrs Middleton said the captain told passengers the flight would go ahead the following day being Wednesday and that there would be extra security in place. They were told they would be put up overnight.
She said: “It was pretty chaotic in the terminal. We had to go back through security, reclaim our baggage and then stand around for 30 minutes or so to wait for instructions, with armed police and what looked like army guys with sniffer dogs in the terminal. We eventually got to the hotel at about 9.30pm completely knackered as the flight was due to take off at 4.15pm.”
Speaking on the incident, Thomson Airways said: “We would like to apologise to our customers who were delayed, due to a potential security concern raised before take-off, on Tuesday May 23 on TOM039 from Cancun to London Gatwick. A full security check took place as a precautionary measure on the aircraft and we made arrangements to reschedule the flight and return customers home as quickly as possible.”