Air France flight emergency ‘false alarm’, says airline chief

Suspicious object found on flight from Mauritius to Paris

The Air France Boeing 777 landed  Mombasa airport after a passenger found the object in the toilets. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

The Air France Boeing 777 landed Mombasa airport after a passenger found the object in the toilets. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

 

A suspicious device found on an Air France flight from Mauritius to Paris that prompted an emergency landing was harmless and caused a “false alarm”, the airline’s chief executive said yesterday.

Air France staff decided to land the Boeing 777 at the nearest airport, in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa, after a passenger found the object in the toilets late on Saturday and alerted crew, chief executive Frédéric Gagey said.

It was made out of cardboard and paper and contained a timer, Mr Gagey said, adding that it must have been planted during the flight.

“All the information available to us at the moment indicates that the object was not capable of creating an explosion or damaging a plane,” Mr Gagey told a news conference in the French capital. “It was a false alarm.”

Mombasa county commissioner Nelson Marwa said passengers had departed on another aircraft sent by Air France to pick them up. An undisclosed number who were being questioned by authorities had stayed behind but he did not say if they were under arrest.

“They are now airborne, but a few among them who we were interrogating have remained with us, until ongoing investigations are done. We are still interrogating them,” Mr Marwa said.

“This is a collaborative investigation involving Kenya and Mauritius, and when we are through, the plane involved will also be released.”

Air France said it planned to take legal action over the incident, without giving further details. The 459 passengers and 14 crew on board flight AF463 were evacuated using the emergency slides after the aircraft landed.

Kenya’s interior minister Joseph Nkaissery said the authorities were in touch with Mauritius to find out how passengers had been screened.

Air France said in a statement it had “immediately decided to reinforce the security measures in Mauritius” after the incident, which follows three bomb alerts in the United States in the last few weeks.

– (Reuters)