NEW YORK (AP) — Two fighter jets escorted a Los Angeles-to-New York American Airlines flight after three passengers locked themselves in a bathroom Sunday, the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, officials said.
A law enforcement official said it wasn’t thought to be terrorism, and American Airlines spokesman Tim Smith said, “In our eyes, it’s a big nothing.”
The North American Aerospace Defense Command scrambled two F-16 jets to shadow Flight 34 until it landed safely at New York’s Kennedy Airport at 4:10 p.m. Sunday, the Transportation Security Administration said in a statement.
The nature of the incident was unclear, but the passengers locked themselves in a bathroom and were still inside when the plane landed, the law enforcement official said. The official was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Law enforcement met the flight and will interview passengers, the TSA statement said. The FBI responded to the airport.
Passenger Steven Ciobo said nothing seemed amiss until he saw police lights on the runway after the plane landed. He looked out the window while still in flight and didn’t notice anything.
“To be honest none of us suspected anything,” said Ciobo, who works for Australia’s Parliament, adding he got up at one point for the bathroom and noticed a long line but didn’t think twice and sat back down.
When the plane landed, he said, the airline workers told them to remain seated and that the authorities would meet the plane. Everyone was quiet as air marshals got on board and headed for the back of the plane.
“To be honest, I think it’s reassuring that there was such a great response from the authorities,” he said. “If there are people that are stupid enough to do those things on today of all days you wonder what’s going on through their heads. But the fact that there were so many authorities there … and that it all went so smoothly, I think they did a good job.
The jets intercepted the flight about 100 miles west of New York and shadowed it until it landed, said John Cornelio, spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command. He described the measure as precautionary.
A “security concern” was brought to the airline’s attention but the plane’s captain never declared any sort of security threat and never requested law enforcement help, according to the airline spokesman Smith.
He said the crew used “normal procedures” to assess the circumstances and the plane landed as planned.
New York has been in a heightened state of security after federal officials received a credible but uncorroborated tip of a car bomb plot on the anniversary in either New York or Washington.
Associated Press writers Colleen Long and David B. Caruso and AP Television Reporter Bonny Ghosh contributed to this report.