Fighter jets escort SIA plane to Changi Airport, man arrested for allegedly making bomb threat

Passengers from SQ33 leaving the airport at around 9.40am Singapore time on Sept 28, 2022. ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM
The police were informed of the alleged bomb threat at about 2.40am on Sept 28, 2022. ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM
Passengers from SQ33 leaving the airport at around 9.40am Singapore time on Sept 28, 2022. ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM
Empty baggage belt 46 where the passengers of SQ33 were supposed to receive luggage on arrival. ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM

SINGAPORE - A 37-year-old man has been arrested for allegedly making a bomb threat on board a Singapore Airlines (SIA) flight from San Francisco that landed in Singapore early on Wednesday morning.

The Straits Times understands that the man arrested is a foreign national.

Flight SQ33, which left San Francisco at 10.26pm on Monday (Tuesday, 1.26pm Singapore time) with 209 passengers and 17 crew members on board, was escorted by two RSAF fighter jets before landing at Changi Airport at about 5.50am on Wednesday, the Republic of Singapore Air Force and police said in a statement.

The police were informed of the threat at about 2.40am on Wednesday, the statement added.

An SIA spokesman in response to queries said SQ33 headed to an isolated part of the airport for security checks after landing, and was then towed to Terminal 3 after security checks were completed. 

The Defence Ministry (Mindef) in a Facebook post on Wednesday said: “Teams from the Singapore Army’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Explosives Defence Group and Airport Police Division were on site to verify the claims.

“The threat was subsequently verified to be false, and the suspicious person has been arrested.”

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen in a Twitter post said the air force activated two F-16 fighter jets to escort flight SQ33. 

The police statement said preliminary investigations indicated that the passenger had allegedly claimed that there was a bomb in a hand-carry bag, and had assaulted the crew.

“He was restrained by the crew, and subsequently arrested... for suspected consumption of controlled drugs. Police investigations are ongoing,” it added.

Remote video URL

When flight SQ33 reached Terminal 3 at about 9.20am, passengers looked tired as they disembarked from the plane. 

They were quickly ushered away to collect their luggage, which had been diverted from its original belt.

One Singapore-based expatriate passenger told ST that she was not aware of the full threat, although she knew of the fighter jet escorts.

She said: “We knew it was something different than somebody being drunk and disorderly because they landed us in the middle of nowhere and then we sat on the tarmac for three hours or so.”

An SIA spokesman said it is helping customers with the rebooking for any onward connections that they may have missed.

Under anti-terror rules, it is an offence for a person to make false claims about carrying out an act of terrorism.

Those found guilty can be punished with a maximum fine of $500,000 or a maximum jail term of 10 years or both.

SQ33 left San Francisco at 10.26pm on Monday and landed at Changi Airport at about 5.50am on Wednesday. PHOTO: FLIGHTRADAR24

In March 2019, a woman and a child were held for questioning after the pilot of SQ Flight 423 - from Mumbai to Singapore - raised a bomb threat alert.

The aircraft was escorted safely back to Changi Airport by two RSAF F-16 fighter jets.

In April 2018, a passenger on a Hat Yai-bound Scoot flight joked that he had a bomb in the bag.

The plane made a U-turn, with fighter jets from the RSAF scrambling to escort it back. Hsu Chun Meng was later fined $4,500 for breaching the Protection from Harassment Act by using threatening words to cause alarm.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.