Passenger escorted off plane after threat warning
SEATTLE — Two military jets escorted an Alaska Airlines flight into Seattle and authorities took a passenger off the plane Thursday night, after a caller told the FBI that a possible hijacker was aboard the flight from Hawaii, officials said.
Law enforcement officers were waiting for the male passenger after Oregon Air National Guard F-15 jets escorted the aircraft, which landed about 7 p.m. PST, airline spokesman Paul McElroy said.
An unidentified caller told the Honolulu FBI office on Thursday afternoon that a man aboard Alaska Flight 819 from Kona to Seattle was a possible hijacker, said FBI spokesman Tom Simon in Honolulu.
Officers boarded the jet through rear stairs in Seattle and removed the man from the plane, McElroy said. The passenger had been seated at the back of the aircraft and “slept most of the flight,” he added.
Seattle FBI spokeswoman Ayn Dietrich described the man as cooperative and said agents were interviewing him Thursday night. She said there didn’t appear to be any imminent public safety threat.
“We’re talking with the individual,” she said. “We continue to gather observations and physical evidence.”
“I can tell you any threats or tips we receive we take seriously in case they’re a credible threat,” she said. “We certainly get a number of calls that turn out to be not credible.”
The flight crew was aware of the threat but reported no unusual behavior, McElroy said, adding law enforcement made the decision to scramble the military jets.
Passengers deplaned normally after the man was removed. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport spokesman Perry Cooper said airport K-9 dogs then checked the plane but found nothing amiss.
Simon declined to provide any details about the caller who alerted the FBI. He noted that making a false statement to the FBI is a crime.