Early on Thursday morning, Mumbai airport’s feedback mailbox received a bomb threat. Air India’s flight 191 from Mumbai to Newark, in the US, would be blown up by an explosive that had been stowed away in one of the luggages, according to the threat sent by email.
Moments later, pilots on board flight AI191 – now above Northern Ireland some 7,700km away — took a hard right turn.
A pair of Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets scrambled from a Royal Air Force base to intercept it, hitting supersonic speeds and sending off a deafening sonic boom in the nearby town of Derbyshire. Buildings shook and car alarms went off, hundreds of people wrote on Twitter.
The flight, with a bomb presumably in its luggage, was escorted to Stansted airport in London.
Luckily, for the 343 people on board, Air India had made a decision that would normally rankle most flyers: most of the check-in luggage had been left behind at Mumbai since the flight was overbooked.
“For some technical reasons, the check-in baggage in the flight could not be loaded. Security agencies checked the baggage at Mumbai airport and found nothing suspicious.
Baggage of crew and some of the passengers who had boarded from Delhi was in the flight, which was checked at Stansted and came up clean,” according to a Mumbai airport official who asked not to be named.
According to officials, the hoax also involved two other Mumbai departures: Lufthansa’s Mumbai-Munich and Mumbai-Zurich flights. “Both of these had landed by the time the hoax mail had been seen,” the official quoted above said.
It was not clear exactly at what time the email had been sent and read by authorities. According to the official quoted above, it is possible the mail may have been seen late since it was in the feedback mailbox. “Mails sent directly to the controller elicit an immediate response,” this official added.