Singapore Airlines bomb hoax: flight from Mumbai escorted by fighter jets after pilot raised alarm

A Singapore Airlines plane from India was escorted to Changi Airport by Singapore’s air force and touched down safely on Tuesday morning, after the pilot raised a bomb threat alert.

The Boeing 777-300 ER aircraft landed at Changi Airport at 7.54am local time, Singapore Airlines (SIA) told Channel NewsAsia.

Flight SQ423 took off from Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport on Monday at 11.36pm local time and arrived 31 minutes late, according to website FlightAware.

After the plane left Mumbai, the airline received a call claiming that there was a bomb on-board, The Straits Times reported. The plane signalled an emergency during landing and other planes around it were diverted, a map from live flight tracker website Flightradar24 showed.

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A woman and a child were detained for questioning by the Singapore police. All other passengers disembarked safely and were required to undergo security screening before they could leave, The Straits Times reported.

Vijay Singh, a 41-year-old executive producer, said he was dozing off when the pilot announced there was a bomb on the plane but it might be a hoax.

Later, some passengers took videos of the RSAF jets lined up next to the plane, he said, adding that when the plane landed, passengers were told to remain seated.

“It was about 10-15 minutes of silence with no updates and then finally the go-ahead to disembark was given,” he said. “If there were checks of the plane, it was not visible to passengers. After that, it took another 10-15 minutes for us to clear security checks. Many passengers were worried about connecting flights.

“Mentally I was in a state of disarray, having had just woken up from a red-eye flight – trying to assess the gravity of the situation with fighter jets next to us ... definitely tense and alarmed by the situation as it sounded like something right out of a movie except that it was in real life.

“At the back of my mind I was thinking: ‘What will Singapore Airlines do about this?’ Imagine the mental anguish that some passengers experienced ... would there be any compensation for that?”

There were 263 passengers on board and more than 20 people missed their connecting flights.

A spokesman from the Singapore police told The Straits Times no suspicious items were found on the plane after it landed at Changi Airport.

“We are assisting the authorities with their investigations and regret that we are unable to provide further details,” a SIA spokesperson said.

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Such incidences are not uncommon.

Aviation specialist Gerry Soejatman counted 10 bomb scares on planes in Indonesia in May last year alone, almost all of them on Lion Air jets.

On March 28 last year, a fake bomb threat on a Lion Air flight en route from the city of Pontianak on Borneo island to Cengkareng in Jakarta caused 11 passengers to suffer injuries, including broken bones.

A panicked passenger overpowered the flight crew to open the emergency exits on the plane’s right side. A viral video on social media showed passengers standing on the plane’s wing and sliding down the engine casings.

Last April, a similar bomb threat incident occurred on a Scoot flight from Singapore to Hat Yai, Thailand.

Hsu Chun Meng, 41, who was unhappy about being told to check in his oversized carry-on baggage joked he had a bomb in the bag. The plane turned back mid-flight and was escorted by two Singapore air force fighter jets.

Hsu was fined S$4,500 (US$3,333) for the bomb hoax.

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