In what can only be described as a comedic error, an Air China flight to Beijing returned to Paris last week after an airline employee misunderstood a calling passenger and thought he was reporting a bomb onboard the aircraft.
According to a screenshot posted by Flightradar24 on Twitter, a ‘squawk 7700’ signal was sent out by the pilots, signalling a general emergency and alerting Air Traffic Control that the aircraft needed to return.
The Air China CA876 flight took off at 1 pm on 26 July and landed back at Charles de Gaulle Airport 45 minutes after take-off. The passengers were then disembarked on the apron where they were asked to pass through a police cordon one-by-one, passing a sniffer dog as they went.
Air China said the B787-9 Dreamliner returned to Paris after the airline “received suspected terrorist information,” giving no further information on the nature of the threat. “To ensure safety, CA876 flew back to Paris and landed safely,” it said on its Weibo social media account.a
As it turned out the false alarm was due to a misunderstanding between a passenger on the ground and a local official of the Chinese airline.
The passenger in question was delayed by an abandoned package at Paris airport (which following standard procedures sees the police cordoning off the area and inspecting the package, ultimately employing a controlled explosion if they deem it suspicious).
The passenger then called the airline saying that there was a bomb in the terminal and he was stuck behind police lines with the airline official he was speaking to, understanding it as there being a bomb aboard the aircraft.
And before you start thinking it was a Chinese language problem, the passenger was actually speaking English. But then again, having travelled through CDG on many occasions, the Belly Buzzers are quite aware of the fact that speaking English is not a prized skill at the airport… well perhaps not so much in the country in general. Just sayin’.
But to be fair, since we don’t know who the passenger is… it could also be the case that the passenger’s English was perhaps not soWe’re also thinking that this particular passenger might want to strike the ‘bomb’ word out of his vocabulary, given the extreme sensitivity that airports and airlines have to the ‘b-word’. Probably that didn’t help much!
A French police official was quoted as saying: “The company understood it was a bomb alert” for the plane, but in reality, “it was an error of comprehension.” Indeed,
erreur de compréhension, or lǐjiě cuòwù (理解错误) as they say…