Must we take a bomb threat seriously when we have every reason to believe that the it is a false alarm? Onboard an airplane, I’d say the answer must be yes. That doesn’t mean we must abrogate common sense, though. But the inconvenience cost of acting is tiny compared to the cost of ignoring a real threat.
Passenger Makes Bomb Threat On United Flight
Yesterday, a United flight from Los Angeles to Newark (UA2304) was met with a choir of flashing police vehicles and armed federal law enforcement. Why? A passenger who was high on marijuana chewables and Adderall began hallucinating as the aircraft approached Newark. She started screaming about a bomb onboard.
Four police officers boarded the aircraft and removed the woman (video below). Every checked bag was searched by bomb-sniffing dogs. The woman was transported to an area hospital for care.
A United spokesperson confirmed:
“During the medical emergency onboard, the passenger made a remark which created a potential security concern. The flight landed safely and the customer was transported to a local hospital.”
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Where Do We Draw The Line?
There’s a persuasive argument to be made that this passenger was simply having a medical episode and a little common sense could have avoided all the hassle.
Is a drugged up woman really likely to have smuggled a bomb onboard? Do we have any faith left in the TSA to screen our baggage?
That’s tough. Certainly I’d make that argument for my own “incident” on United many years ago, where a flight attendant ejected me from the flight for taking a picture of my seat and then telling her I was not a terrorist when she questioned me.
How about here? Well, there’s a difference between throwing someone off a plane for something they did not do and performing a search out of an abundance of caution.
If there is no bomb, people are inconvenienced for 30-60 minutes but then go on their happy way. If there is a bomb, human lives and an expensive airplane are saved. It thus seems to me that the opportunity cost is quite low of taking the threat seriously versus ignoring it.
I certainly would not have wanted to be inconvenienced after a transcontinental flight. Someone yelling “bomb” on a crowded plane does not scare me either. But it’s not about my subjective fear; it’s about a small burden to potentially avoid a huge burden…sort of like masks. As annoying as it it, airlines should continue to take bomb threats seriously and then send the bill to the passenger responsible for the false alarm.