Second hoax threat to airlines in 2 days

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 September, 2012, 3:40am

A hoax threat made against a Shenzhen-bound flight has raised public concern as it was the second to a commercial plane on the mainland in as many days.

The Shenzhen Airlines flight was diverted to Wuhan in central Hubei province after taking off from Xiangfan , about 300 kilometres away, after an anonymous call threatening the plane on Thursday, Xinhua reported.

Details of the call were not revealed, but police found no explosives on board and dismissed the hoax as "a malicious attempt to disrupt operations".

Police are investigating the origin of the call, which came a day after a New York-bound Air China flight returned to Beijing, seven hours after take-off, due to an unspecified threat.

Chen Liren , deputy director at the official magazine for the Civil Aviation Administration of China, said the return of the Air China flight was unusual.

"Turning a plane around more than three hours into its journey, rather than landing at a nearby airport, is nearly unprecedented," he said. "It might suggest the problem could be solved only in Beijing."

However, the return to Beijing showed authorities were sure there were no mechanical faults or direct threats, such as explosives, to the aircraft, Chen said.

Beijing police denied a widespread rumour circulating online that a corrupt official had been on board the flight and was trying to flee the country.

Chen said public concern expressed on microblogs about airline safety was unwarranted, as regulations at Chinese airports were among the most stringent in the world. "Tight security checks make it impossible for passengers to bring anything explosive on board," he said.

In June, six Uygur men reportedly tried to hijack a domestic flight in the restive far-western Xinjiang region, but were thwarted by crew and passengers.