Though the charges were filed in May, the news is just coming to light now after a plea agreement was filed in a California federal court last week.
According to WFAA-TV in Dallas, the former trainee began making the calls in October 2012, using a payphone near his home in California. This first call was to an internal phone number at United. Subsequent calls were also made from payphones — in L.A., NYC, Las Vegas, Seattle — but the man phoned in these later threats to local 9-1-1 operators.
During the calls, he would falsely claim that a bomb had been planted on a United flight, often giving flight numbers for jets en route from L.A. to London.
As you’d expect, United had to take each call seriously, meaning canceled flights, evacuated planes, scouring each jet for explosive devices, re-screening passengers and putting them, and all their stuff, on other flights.
In all, United claims these eight threats resulted in losses of at least $267,912 to the airline. If the man pleads guilty and the judge signs off on the deal, the one-time wannabe flight attendant will be ordered to pay $250,000 to United, though he might have trouble doing that while he’s also serving time behind bars.
For its part, American says it did a thorough background check on the trainee and found no red flags. Upon learning of his arrest, the airline terminated his employment.