Airline bans passenger after crash image circulated prior to take-off

Teenager escorted off aircraft by military police and under questioning says image sent as ‘a joke’

Dutch low-cost airline Transavia has banned an 18-year-old youth from flying with it for five years after he circulated an image of a plane crash to other passengers just minutes before his flight was due to leave Rotterdam airport in the Netherlands for Croatia.

The teenager, who was detained by military police but has not been named, used the Apple system, AirDrop — which allows iPhone users to circulate files among other users in their vicinity — to send the image, which was seen instantly by the jet’s purser and some passengers, including children.

A spokesperson for the airline, which is part of the Air France-KLM group, said it took the communication “very seriously”. It regarded the image of air crash debris as an indication of what the sender was indicating might happen if their flight took off.

“We regarded this as a kind of bomb threat,” said the spokesperson. “And in fact, the captain did make an official report of a possible threat to the aircraft.”


Summer flights from the Netherlands have frequently been tense affairs since the shooting down of Flight MH17 by Russian-backed separatists over the sunflower fields of Ukraine on July 17th, 2014, while en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. There were 193 Dutch among the 298 killed.

In this case, the Transavia jet was due to leave Rotterdam for Zadar, on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast, at 6.55am on Wednesday.

When the air crash image was spotted, however, the flight was delayed as the crew made repeated announcements asking the passenger who circulated it to come forward, but to no avail.

Mounting concern

The announcements, of course, increased concern among other passengers.

In the end, the 18-year-old identified himself only after the captain said the flight would be delayed indefinitely until the matter had been resolved — and security could be assured.

The 18-year-old was escorted off the aircraft by the armed paramilitary police who are stationed at all Dutch airports. He is reported to have said during questioning that he sent the image as “a joke”.

The Transavia spokesperson said that in the vast majority of cases where passengers were placed on airline black lists it was because of aggressive behaviour.

This had been particularly the case during the coronavirus pandemic when some passengers had refused to comply with social distancing. “But the way in which this image was circulated, this is new to us.”

Peter Cluskey

Peter Cluskey

Peter Cluskey is a journalist and broadcaster based in The Hague, where he covers Dutch news and politics plus the work of organisations such as the International Criminal Court