Two Paris-bound flights diverted after threats

Workers load cargo on an Air France Airbus 380, Flight 65, on the runway at Salt Lake City International Airport after being inspected by the FBI on Nov 17, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Workers load cargo on an Air France Airbus 380, Flight 65, on the runway at Salt Lake City International Airport after being inspected by the FBI on Nov 17, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah.PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES • The security fallout from last week's Paris attacks continues to reverberate across the world, leading to the diversion of two Paris- bound Air France flights from the United States and the cancellation of a football match in Germany.

Flight 65 from Los Angeles and Flight 55 from Washington were "subject to anonymous threats received after their respective takeoffs", the airline said in a statement.

But once they landed on Tuesday night, the planes were found to have neither explosives nor any credible threats on board, said the Canadian police and US media.

Air France said the authorities were tracking the source of the phone calls. It was unclear if the same person called in both threats.

The flight from Dulles International Airport outside Washington, with 262 people on board, was diverted to Halifax, Nova Scotia. The one from Los Angeles, transporting 497 passengers and crew, landed safely in Salt Lake City, Utah.

A man on board the Dulles flight told CNN that passengers were told about 21/2 hours into the flight that they were being diverted "due to operational issues". He said there was no panic on board.

"Upon landing, one of the flight attendants said it was a security issue that needed to get addressed," said the man identified as Yianni.

A passenger on board the Los Angeles-Paris flight said "everything was going swell" for the first two hours until flight attendants began quickly clearing the dinner trays.

"World aviation is on high alert," said Mr Mark Martin, founder of Dubai-based Martin Consulting, adding that airports must step up screening of all staff entering airports.

On Tuesday, a bomb threat forced Germany's friendly against the Netherlands to be cancelled. German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere made the decision based on a "concrete threat" two hours before kick- off in Hanover.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was rushed back to Berlin, and thousands of fans were evacuated from HDI Arena. However, no explosives were found after a search.

Part of Hanover railway station was also closed while a suspicious object was investigated.

It was the second high-profile friendly to be cancelled after last Friday's attacks in Paris, following the Belgian authorities' decision to postpone the country's game against Spain in Brussels amid security fears.

Meanwhile, tour operators cancelled packaged trips as travellers from Asia held off on plans to visit Europe. Some Chinese visitors in Paris last weekend diverted to Switzerland, said Ms Jane Chen of travel firm Ctrip in Shanghai.

"I still want to go to Paris, but after this incident, I won't go within a year," said Ms Vickie Zheng, a 27-year-old realtor in Shanghai.

Among Asian airlines operating regular flights to Paris, South Korea's Asiana Airlines said it has stepped up security for Paris flights.

Mr K.W. Nieh, senior vice-president at Taiwan's Eva Airways, said: "Our passengers are really concerned about the attacks in Paris." He added that there was a rush of cancellations following the attacks.

Several airlines, such as Air China and Singapore Airlines, waived cancellation fees for those booked on flights to Paris in the coming days or weeks.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 19, 2015, with the headline 'Two Paris-bound flights diverted after threats'. Print Edition | Subscribe