Saudia Pilot Might Have Said Oops… What is This Red Button For?

Why does this remind me of the tasteless Space Shuttle Challenger jokes I heard as a school kid, “What’s this red button for?”

A Saudia pilot accidentally hit the hijack warning button.. twice leading to a security response.

The pilot “mistakenly pressed a hijack warning button” on approach about 20 miles to Manila. And then confirmed it

Airport authorities asked for a verification of the emergency message and one of the pilots confirmed the distress call verbally with the airport tower, aviation security chief Mao Aplasca said. He said the pilot did not immediately say the emergency call was a mistake.

The airport mobilized “commando forces” and isolated the Boeing 777 on arrival. It was only then that the pilot radioed that the whole thing was an accident. But at this point authorities assumed the pilot was saying so under duress.


Saudia Boeing 777, Copyright evrenkalinbacak / 123RF Stock Photo

The pilot didn’t tell passengers what was going on, and they only learned about it from friends and family texts. The pilots though security forces on the ground were doing the hijacking.

When Princess Habiba Sarip-Paudac, a news anchor at a state-run TV network who was on the plane, peered out of the window, she saw SWAT forces and police, some with dogs, who later boarded the plane. She said the passengers “felt like it was really a hijacking. They thought someone would throw tear gas.”

The airline tweeted out, ‘all good!’

As I think more on it, the Saudia pilot ironically reminds me of the mohel in an LA Law episode years ago who performed a bris and ‘might have said oops’. Firm partner Stuart Markowitz argued that since the orthodox child would grow up a virgin, and marry a woman who was also a virgin, there were no actual damages. Like here, if the Saudia crew didn’t tell the passengers what was happening, no harm done!

There’s no indication that Saudia’s Alfursan program proactively gave them miles as compensation, either.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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