Plane Full Of Passengers Probably Not Amused By Buddy Prank That Turned Their Flight Around

Sweet mother of pearl and by all things deserving of a facepalm moment — why, why why why would you ever call in a fake threat to an airline just to prank your pal* on his 29th birthday? In case you were considering doing so, your plan has already been pulled and resulted in a US Airways flight bound for Dallas-Fort Worth returning to Philadelphia, much to the likely annoyance of the entire rest of the plane.

Philadelphia’s chief inspector for the police says a 29-year-old man was removed from the flight in handcuffs all because his friend thought it would be just hilarious to call in a fake security threat for his buddy’s birthday.

“He was obviously very alarmed as I would be if heavily armed police officers entered a plane to take me off, he was certainly stunned. That is why this is no joke, this is no laughing matter,” said the inspector.

Apparently, the friend had called in an anonymous warning to the airport police, claiming that there was a man on a US Airways flight who was attempting to smuggle a dangerous substance aboard. He gave his pal’s name and officials quickly conferred with the FBI and US Airways and decided to turn the plane around mid-flight.

NBC Philadelphia says the subject of the prank was apparently unaware that he was the reason his flight was turned around, posting on his Facebook page:

“I’m pretty disappointed in US Airways currently. We just spent a half hour in the air to be notified that the plane, “has technical difficulties” and had to fly back! Flight 1267 CANCELED.”

Cops say the victim of the hoax won’t be charged, but intimated that his friend is probably in some deep you-know-what. And if the legal system doesn’t smack him hard enough, he better hope he never runs into any of the inconvenienced 69 passengers on that flight.

The Transportation Security Administration released the followed statement regarding the incident:

“US Airways flight 1267 from Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) to Dallas Fort-Worth International Airport, returned to PHL this morning due to a report of a suspicious item on board. The flight landed safely at approximately 8:40 a.m., Eastern time and out of abundance of caution, was taken to remote area of the airport. Law enforcement representatives, including the FBI, have met the flight.”

Face, meet palm.

*Consumerist reader Beau brings up a totally valid point — it’s not clear who called the threat in. It could’ve been a friend who knows his pal’s birthday, an angry ex or just someone who wanted to wreak havoc on this man’s life. My brain turned “birthday prank” into “birthdays are things friends celebrate so a friend did this to him!” So far, reports differ as to where the call came from, so once I find a report that indicates who exactly it was, I’ll make sure to update everyone.

Security Scare at Philly Int’l is a Hoax [NBC Philadelphia]


Edit Your Comment

  1. kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

    “Cops say the victim of the hoax won’t be charged”

    Well, yeah. What could he possibly be charged with, other than having poor judgment when it comes to choosing friends?

    • 85% Real 15% Filler says:

      There isn’t anything in the original article that states it was his friend, but I guess by adding that makes for a better Consumerist artical.

      The article on CBS news states: “Law enforcement sources told CBS News senior correspondent John Miller that the hoax possibly grew out of an ongoing dispute involving the man taken off the plane, his ex-girlfriend and her current boyfriend.”

      A little more plausible.

    • kc2idf says:

      I am sure that if, in the end, this unconfirmed version of the story that it was a friend of his becomes confirmed, that the aforementioned failure of judgement will be quickly remedied.

      I know I would if one of my friends did this to me.

  2. PBallRaven says:

    Not only disrupting that flight, but causing ripples of disruption throught the entire airline system. Was alcohol involved?

  3. howie_in_az says:

    wtf is wrong with people? Who does this, besides the idiot monkey friend? This is something a 9 year old might pull, but a 29ish year old should definitely know better. I hope there’s a follow-up about how the friend was fined a shitton of monies and put on probation, or at least given some jail time.

    • El_Cheapocabra says:

      Boy, what a joker
      What a funny, funny guy
      I’ll never forget about Larry
      No matter how I try

      You know I couldn’t help but laugh
      Even though he treated me like slime
      Remember when he cut my car in half?
      Well, he really got me good that time!

      Say, do you remember when I broke in Larry’s house
      Late at night and tied his mouth with a rag
      Then I dragged him by his ankles to the middle of the forest
      And stuffed him in a big plastic bag
      If the cops ever find him, who knows what they’d say
      But I’m sure if ol’ Lar’ were still with us today
      He would have to agree with me it was a pretty good gag

  4. thomwithanh says:

    “Cops say the victim of the hoax won’t be charged”

    No, but I’d bet money he’s on the “No Fly List” or if not will get flagged additional screening every time he flies from now on, considering how inept TSA is…

    • bluline says:

      I certainly wouldn’t bet against you on that. That poor guy likely is hosed for life as far as air travel in the U.S. is concerned. And he can probably forget about foreign travel entirely.

  5. Hoss says:

    Surely you can’t be serious.

  6. Jane_Gage says:

    Damn, friend missed 9/11 B-date for ultimate hoax impact.

  7. cdoc says:

    “cops say the victim of the hoax won’t be charged” I’m glad the addressed that because we were all wondering if a guy who did nothing wrong would be sent to jail.

    How about the accountability of the airline and police to verify the legitimacy of the call. I’m sure the police didn’t say please and thank you. I’d even be willing to bet they roughed this guy up during the process? Body cavity search? But they aren’t going to press charges against him. How about the victim? Can he press charges of false imprisonment against the police and airline?

    • dullard says:

      “How about the victim? Can he press charges of false imprisonment against the police and airline?”

      One can always press charges, even when they are unfounded. In this case it is unlikely the victim would prevail. It would appear that probable cause existed to support the action taken by the police and airline.

      • axhandler1 says:

        An anonymous phone call is all that it takes to establish probable cause? I could phone in a report every five minutes from a different payphone and cripple the airline industry for a day if that was really all it took. I don’t know, maybe it is, but that seems outrageous to me.

        • bluline says:

          You could find so many pay phones that you could make a call from a different one every five minutes? I guess cell phones haven’t reached your neck of the woods yet.

          • axhandler1 says:

            No, they haven’t. Here in [redacted], we have payphones on every corner. Or, I could simply go down to my local 7-11 and buy 50 untraceable throw-away phones with cash.

            • AtlantaCPA says:

              Note that one thing that made this credible was that the caller knew the name of the person on the plane. I don’t think you could reach that level of credibility by just guessing names at random as you tried to bring the system to its knees.

              • lanman04 says:

                Ah, the perfect time to slip a real bomb on board. Right in the middle of cry-wolf.

                The airlines HAVE to take every threat seriously. It’s their weakness, their ability to be DDOSed.

              • bluline says:

                “William Smith” or “Robert Jones” would be pretty good guesses.

        • George4478 says:

          “Joe Smith on Flight 100 has a bomb”. *click*

          What should the airline and police do now?

          If landing the plane, removing Joe Smith, and searching him is ‘outrageous’, what is your alternative approach?

          • axhandler1 says:

            Not sure if I have one, honestly. Maybe contact the in-flight air marshal if there is one and have them detain the person until the destination is reached? It just seems like requiring the plane to turn around mid flight and land based on a prank phone call is a system that is ripe for abuse.

        • JollySith says:

          Fortunately, laws aren’t made or enforced on what seems reasonable to ye random internet guy. In this day and age being detained (not arrested) and searched based on a phone tip that had your name, birth date, and flight number is not that far fetched. If, as you speculate with no proof, he was abused and roughed up by the officers then he has a legitimate complaint. But part of being a responsible citizen is working with authorities in the case of a legitimate mistake.

    • George4478 says:

      When was he imprisoned by either the police or the airline?

      • dullard says:

        False imprisonment doesn’t require that one be imprisoned. It’s the unlawful violation of personal liberty.

        • George4478 says:

          You still didn’t answer the question. So when did the airline or police do this?

          Landing a plane at a location other than it’s intended destination =/= false imprisonment by the airline.

          Being informed by police that one of your passengers may be a threat and then not bothering him at all =/= false imprisonment by the airline.

          Turning a passenger over to the authorities after landing =/= false imprisonment by the airline.

          Being removed from the plane, searched for the dangerous substance mentioned by the caller, and released =/= false imprisonment. This was not some sort of random grab — there was probable cause to conduct a search of a specific, named individual.

          I’m not seeing ‘an unlawful violation of personal liberty’.

          • dullard says:

            “I’m not seeing ‘an unlawful violation of personal liberty.”

            That’s just the point. Although victim’s personal liberty was restrained (he was removed from the plane in handcuffs), the restraint was not unlawful based upon the facts of this case. For the action to constitute a false imprisonment it must be unlawful. There was no false imprisonment in this case.

      • bluline says:

        Detained is a better word, and the detainment likely was legal. Even if it’s not, no court is going to side against the cops on a thing like this, not in the paranoia-laced era we live in now.

    • Difdi says:

      Being innocent does not shield you from being convicted on federal charges. The feds have been eliminating the mens rea requirement for a conviction for decades now.

  8. EP2012 says:

    Seriously. No less than 5 years prison for the prankster and they have to pay back all the expenses this hoax caused the airliner, passengers and law enforcement to incur.

    • StatusfriedCrustomer says:

      And no cell bed either – he should have to sleep in an airplane seat every day for 5 years with another seat close in front of him that’s permanently reclined.

      • kc2idf says:

        It would be even better if the permanently inclined seat were occupied by a volunteer from amongst the other 69 passengers.

  9. HogwartsProfessor says:

    I sent in a nice airline story. Guess no one wants to hear that.

    This guy should totally unfriend his stupid non-friend. Seriously, I would never speak to the asshole ever again.

  10. StatusfriedCrustomer says:

    There need to be drop-off only airports built around the country – places with aircraft can land, discharge suspicious or annoying passengers (there would be transportation, police, phones, etc. at the drop-off spot) — and then re-take off without having to spend undue time flying back and forth and jamming up the real airports.

    • Banished to the Corner says:

      yes, because we have so many unused airports about, with bored ATC just waiting for problems.

      I wonder why the plain was turned around, I would think sending it to the closed airport would be the best option – unless that was the closest airport.

  11. PragmaticGuy says:

    I hope they make his “friend” pay for the fuel that was wasted. I figure that’s got to be a lot more money than any fine that could be involved.

  12. Mr. Fix-It is trapped in a collection of half-working appliances says:

    Okay, what in the sweet-and-sour fuck is wrong with this guy? On what distant star would this ever be considered a good idea? Nevermind the legal issues, now you’ve got a plane full of angry people waiting to wail on your ass if they ever meet you on the street, your ‘buddy’ included. Or, as I like to call it: ‘Canned Lynch-Mob’

    • Difdi says:

      Most “friendship” interactions between males between the ages of 13 and 30 would be seen as royally screwing over outside of those ages. It’s the main reason why women don’t understand why men consider certain jerks to be their friends (if a woman treated another woman that way, they’d be deadly enemies…men often consider people who treat them that way friends).

      This is actually fairly typical of the age range.

  13. nicoleintrovert says:

    I bet this guy pooped in his potty chair at the dinner table as a kid.

  14. jeepguy57 says:

    Where does it say it was a friend? Sounds to me like maybe it wasn’t a prank but rather an attempt to disrupt this guy’s life for a day, done by someone who has an issue with him, rather than a friend. My friends and I pranked each other a lot in our twenties but never would have done something as stupid as this.

    • bluline says:

      It says “his friend” right there in the second paragraph.

      A little reading comprehension goes a long way, you know.

      • 85% Real 15% Filler says:

        I believe he is referring to the original artical which does not state anything about a friend. A lot of reading goes a longer way towards comprehension in this case.

      • jeepguy57 says:

        Thanks Captain Obvious. I was referring to the original article – I don’t see any quote from the police or any other note about it being a friend. Seemed like maybe The Consumerist made that assumption.

        I hate having to explain myself to idiots.

        • bluline says:

          There’s no reference to “the original article” in your first post. Are we supposed to infer that’s what you meant?

  15. Torchwood says:

    The victim’s name is “Shell”. Does his bad-judgement buddy have the initials of “BP”? :)

  16. oldwiz65 says:

    Hopefully the prankster will get some jail time.

  17. ColoradoShark says:

    “I’m pretty disappointed in US Airways currently. We just spent a half hour in the air to be notified that the plane, “has technical difficulties” and had to fly back! Flight 1267 CANCELED.”

    Actually, the correct word here is not “canceled”, it is “aborted”. The flight was already started and then stopped. The word abort is a perfectly good word and describes this situation. Canceled would be if it never started in the first place.

    • pamelad says:

      “Canceled would be if it never started in the first place.”

      The use of the word “abort” is not any better than “canceled” (or “cancelled”) in this case. For example, you might subscribe to a magazine, receive a copy, then might have the option to cancel the subscription if you decide you don’t like the magazine. Another example: You could commence a reply here on Consumerist, then choose “Cancel reply” if you decide you don’t want to post it.

      I hope the victim of this prank does not experience serious problems flying for the rest of his life. He has an even more serious problem: choosing friends.

  18. Lyn Torden says:

    69 lawsuits against the caller. The judgments cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. So when the caller eventually gets out of prison, he will still be in serious debt.

  19. Weekilter says:

    Who needs friends like this that do stupid chit like this?

  20. Professor59 says:

    The victim won’t be charged…but he won’t be apologized to, either, for being led off in handcuffs and made the object of public scorn for at least the few hours before it was sorted out.

    The appropriate penalty should be at least the cost of the entire police operation, tickets for all passengers plus damages. Plus incarceration under the Patriot act for domestic terrorism.

  21. Difdi says:

    I wonder, was the dangerous substance in question dihydrogen monoxide?

  22. Chuft-Captain says:

    So it seems the initiator of the prank was his ex-girlfriend. Who had some other man she knew (unclear if he knew the victim here) make the call.

  23. AtlantaCPA says:
  24. Press1forDialTone says:

    The perp should get time in slammer, and be put on the do not fly list for all
    airlines worldwide. His buddy needs to get a restraining order for this a-hole.

  25. blissfool says:

    Way to own up Mary. Unlike Nokia.

  26. soj4life says:

    I am not surprised by what happened, people in philly are hotheads that don’t think about their actions.