Sunday, December 20, 2015

Suspect Item on Air France Flight Deemed False Alarm: Boeing 777 aircraft was diverted to Kenya en route to Paris from Mauritius

The Boeing 777 Air France Flight 463 parked at Moi International Airport in the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa on Sunday.

The Wall Street Journal
By Inti Landauro in Paris and Heidi Vogt in Nairobi, Kenya
Updated Dec. 20, 2015 11:38 a.m. ET

An Air France plane was diverted to the Kenyan city of Mombasa on Sunday after crew members found an object they initially suspected was a bomb but was later determined to be fake.

The Boeing 777 aircraft, carrying 459 passengers and 14 crew members, landed at Mombasa airport and was evacuated, a spokesman for Air France-KLM SA said. Air France Flight 463 had left the African island nation of Mauritius on Saturday evening and was en route to Paris’s Charles De Gaulle airport. It landed in Mombasa shortly after midnight local time.

In a statement later Sunday, the company said the incident amounted to a false alarm.

Kenyan Interior Minister Joseph Nkaissery said a few “passengers of concern” who were on board the flight were being interrogated.

Aircraft crews have been on edge since a Russian airliner crashed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula in late October, killing all 224 people on board.

Russia has blamed the crash on a bomb, citing explosive debris found at the crash site, but Egyptian investigators say they haven’t found evidence of terrorism after hundreds of hours examining the plane’s wreckage.

In addition, the series of deadly attacks in Paris last month, which killed 130 people, have triggered increased border controls and stepped-up security screening on air and train travel.

Less than a week after the Paris attacks, two Air France flights were diverted after an anonymous threat was phoned in against them. A flight from Los Angeles to Paris was diverted to Salt Lake City, while a plane flying from Washington, D.C., to Paris was forced to land in Halifax, Canada.

A spokeswoman for Air France said the crew didn’t spot the device, a package that included a clock, when carrying out a round check before takeoff. The device was likely left there by a passenger, she said, though local authorities are still investigating.

The passengers and crew members on board the Air France flight were transferred to hotels in the Kenyan port city. The airline will send another plane to pick them up later Sunday, and they are expected to arrive in Paris early Monday.

The Kenyan airport authority said normal flight operations had resumed after the disruption.

Following the crash of the Russian airliner in Egypt, the U.S. has ordered closer checks on inbound flights from some unspecified airports, while the U.K. barred flights from Sharm El Sheikh, where the plane departed.

Air France said earlier this month that it had suffered €50 million ($54.3 million) in lost sales since the Paris attacks and that bookings in December were also affected. Other carriers said the attacks in Paris and crash in Egypt had dented sales, though they expected a return to normal booking patterns relatively quickly given historic experiences with similar events.

—Robert Wall in London contributed to this article.

 Original article can be found here:

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