Your Flight is Hijacked?
Your Flight is Hijacked?
As a frequent flyer, you’d heard your fair share of commotions on airplanes. From fighting couples to drunken passengers — the cramped cabin of a crowded airplane was hardly a quiet place, even when most of your fellow travelers were being respectful. Yes, you’d been on noisy flights before, but this ruckus was different.
In the way that a parent can distinguish a child’s cry of pain from a howl of frustration, these raised voices conveyed alarm to you. Turning to your spouse, you asked, “Honey, are you hearing this?” She looked up from her book and turned a bit to listen. A moment later, a woman’s piercing scream tore through the low murmur of conversations in coach. It came from the front of the plane, behind the first-class curtain. You started to stand up in your seat, but your spouse pulled you back down. That was a good thing.
A loud and deep man’s voice boomed just behind you. “Stay in seats! We take this plane now!” Craning your neck to see over the seatback, you saw two men in ski masks, holding a terrified flight attendant. The speaker shouted again, so all could hear “You stay in seats or we blow up plane!”
For this installment of RECOIL OFFGRID’s “What If?” column, the editors have placed us in an airline hijacking scenario that pushes the boundaries of preparedness. And while this scenario is a painful reminder of the life-altering events of Sept. 11, it’s also a valuable teaching opportunity. Here we’ll share some potential strategies to fight back against fanatical hijackers, and we’ll discuss some of the preparations and strategies that you might need to employ, should you find yourself in such a dire situation. Most of us will never forget Sept. 11, and we should never forget that this kind of crisis can still happen, despite all of the advancements in airline security. You never know when one person may make all the difference.
The Setup: You and your spouse are en route from Boston to Los Angeles to visit family for the holidays. Since two of the aircraft that were hijacked on Sept. 11 originated at Logan International Airport, security here is taken very seriously. As you prepare to board your flight, you feel confident that these protocols would prevent another such attack from happening at this airport. After the two of you take your seats, a welldressed, middle-aged man sits down in your row’s third seat and nods hello. The flight gets underway without incident.
The Complication: About halfway through your roughly six-hour flight, the mood is still and quiet. Suddenly there’s yelling and commotion in the first-class section of the cabin. Initially, given all the cell phone videos posted on the internet of rowdy passengers, you think someone may just have had a little too much to drink. The commotion and arguing escalates, and you now hear screaming. People start to rise from their seats to see what’s happening.
Suddenly, from the rear of the cabin, you hear a shout and two men start addressing the passengers in broken English to remain seated or they’ll detonate a bomb on the plane. The two men are wearing ski masks, and one of them has a knife to a flight attendant’s throat. The men start yelling at the passengers to stay seated or they’ll be killed. The other man starts moving forward toward the cockpit with what appears to be a large, non-ferrous knife, while the first man remains in the rear holding the flight attendant as his hostage.
You’re clearly in a hijacking situation. You also feel that the plane may be descending and deviating from its previous course.
You’re midair during this hijacking attempt, and according to the flight tracker on the back of the seat in front of you, you believe you’re just east of Colorado.
You’ve no idea if they’ve managed to gain access to the cockpit. It’s not yet possible to discern if they plan to divert the flight to an airport and hold everyone on board hostage, use it as a guided missile, or something else entirely. What are your options? Remain compliant? Is the bomb threat legit or a ploy to scare everyone? Can you attempt to call out using the jet’s Wi-Fi or any other communication device you might have brought? Do you try to subdue one of the attackers and hope others will join in or that an air marshal is on board? If so, what can you use as a weapon?