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Fake Telephone Calls Trouble European Airlines

Posted October. 06, 2004 21:55,   


Europe is trembling over false phone calls that are warning of fresh bomb terrors.

On October 5, an unidentified call rang in the Lufthansa airlines office while one of its flights was flying from Frankfurt to Tel Aviv in Israel. It was a call saying that there was a bomb aboard the flight. Lufthansa regarded it as a fabrication and kept the flight in the air. However, Israel was severely against Lufthansa’s decision. Israel scrambled two jet fighters and forced the plane to land in Cyprus. No explosive materials were found on the plane. The Cyprus government strongly protested the Israeli government’s use of fighters to force the flight down without any prior authorization.

This case ended up as a disturbance, but it was an event huge enough to cause big confusion and losses. For the last 10 days in Europe, there were six similar cases, and European airline companies are faced with a deluge of false calls.

Starting with an Olympic Airlines flight on September 26 departing from Athens for New York that made an emergency landing in London because of a false call, some airline flights from carriers like British Airways and Singapore Airlines have since made emergency landings for similar reasons.

Philip Baum, editor of “International Aviation Security,” said in an interview with Reuters, “It is very difficult to clandestinely load bomb materials onto a flight. In case of success, however, it is normal that there is no warning call beforehand.”

Experts point out that airline companies sometimes receive fake phone calls when there is heated competition between airlines or when the ownership of a company changes. Sometimes passengers who are late for a flight make calls simply to delay the departure of a flight.

But airline companies have no choice but to make emergency landings for the sake of security, regardless of the huge costs. The estimated cost of an emergency landing is hundreds of thousands of dollars per case. This includes not only the fuel cost but also the airport fee. Flight schedules also have to be modified, which aggravates airline companies even more.

Dong-Keun Keum gold@donga.com