A family of four who "appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent" were forced off a Spirit Airlines flight in the US after a terror scare was sparked by one of them watching the news on his phone.
The incident was one of a spate of safety alerts hitting flights and airports in the US on Tuesday, four days after the massacre in Paris claimed 129 lives, and injured hundreds more. Two Air France flights - one from Los Angeles, the other Virginia - bound for Paris were diverted and landed safely after anonymous "bomb" threats. Both were later found not to be credible.
A separate scare saw a bomb squad called to investigate a “suspicious” piece of luggage at O'Hare Airport in Chicago.
The family was ejected from the Chicago-bound flight in Baltimore, which was already taxing down the runway, after a female passenger altered cabin crew to a man's "suspicious behaviour".
The airline said the flight "experienced a delay this morning due to law enforcement activity", which it said occurred after a passenger notified a flight attendant of a "passenger engaged in suspicious activity on board".
According to the Chicago Tribune, several other people were also removed from the plane after having their names called out over the PA system, but they were later allowed to continue on the flight. It left Baltimore some three hours late, after the plane and luggage had been checked.
None of the removed passengers were charged over the incident at the Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.
A police spokesman said the man had been watching a media report: "I don’t know of what nature it was, but given current events, I can imagine what it was," he said.
The spokesman said given the Paris attacks, the woman who complained must have heard something that "created some concerns for her". The captain then made the decision to return to the terminal.
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He told the Tribune: “I’m not going to discredit the captain. He had the information there at the time and he made a decision based on the information."
Several of the passengers who arrived at O'Hare said at least two of the people removed appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent, which heightened their concerns because of the Paris attacks, the Tribune reported.
The police spokesman refused to comment on the ethnicity of the passengers involved, saying: "Regardless of how this turned out here, it’s still important if people see something, combined with their experience, that if something doesn’t seem right that they should say something.
"It’s better to have something investigated and cleared."