South African Flight Aborted After 'Verbal Threat'

October 6, 2006

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A South African airliner aborted a flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg on Friday after a "verbal threat" from two passengers, an airline official said.

A spokeswoman for Kulula.com, a local low-cost airline operated by Comair, a franchised partner of British Airways, said the captain followed standard procedure and returned the aircraft to Cape Town airport.

"At no time were any of the passengers or crew in danger," said spokeswoman Glenda Zvenyika.

Zvenyika said the "unknown verbal threat" was made less than 30 minutes into the flight of MN120 taking off from Cape Town for the two-hour flight to Johannesburg.

Police and emergency services surrounded the plane, carrying 151 passengers and six crew, immediately after it landed and was parked at an isolated section of the airport.

All passengers were later escorted off the plane into waiting buses and taken back to the airport terminal.

Police spokesman Billy Jones said two South Africans were taken in for questioning to determine whether criminal charges would be filed.

Officials said Cape Town airport was functioning normally.

The scare was the second involving a flight from Cape Town in recent months. In June a South African Airways flight bound for Johannesburg turned back soon after take off following a hijack attempt.

A Zimbabwean student wielding a hypodermic syringe threatened crew members and ordered the SAA flight diverted to Maputo, capital of neighboring Mozambique. He was overpowered by crew and passengers before the plane returned to Cape Town.

The student was arrested and his trial continues.

(Reuters)