Misunderstanding causes Spirit Airlines emergency landing
Flight from Fort Lauderdale returned to gate, no threat was detected
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Spirit Airlines says a misunderstanding caused pilots to make an emergency landing at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Thursday evening.
A bomb threat was allegedly made during Flight 596 from Fort Lauderdale to Minneapolis.
All 92 passengers were forced to leave the plane as Broward Sheriff's Office deputies checked the flight.
Two men were originally seen being removed from the plane in handcuffs.
One of those men was Yaniv Abotbul, 38, from Aventura.
"You don't know how many things you have in your head, when you don't know," Abotbul told Local 10. "Nobody told me what's going on. Nobody told me why I have been arrested. I have been treated, you know, like a criminal. I didn't know what kind of crime."
Abotbul said he spent five hours being interrogated by agents before being allowed to leave. He said that when he attempted to reboard the flight to Minneapolis, the airline denied him entry and gave him a refund.
After the aircraft's cabin and cargo were checked, and all bags were swept by a BSO canine, it was determined that there was no threat.
After the men, witnesses and flight attendants were interviewed by FBI agents, it was determined that the incident was a result of a miscommunication between passengers and the flight crew.
The misunderstanding stemmed from a phone conversation overhead in the cabin of the plane. A girl who was seated across the aisle from one of the men said she heard a remark about blowing up the plane while he was on the phone. The girl told her mother, who then relayed the conversation to a flight attendant.
Spirit Airlines defended the move as a safety precaution.
"While we never want to divert a flight, concerns for the safety and security of our all of our passengers and crew sometimes call for immediate action," the airline said in a statement. "It requires the best judgment of the crew to make these difficult decisions. The consequences of not acting or responding to a potential threat can be catastrophic once the plane is in the air."
Abotbul says he wants an apology from the airline and is considering a lawsuit.
Passengers were able to board another aircraft later Thursday evening to resume their flight.
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