American Airlines Crew Robbed At Gunpoint On The Way To The Airport

Tuesday’s early morning San José, Costa Rica to Miami flight, American Airlines 1204, was delayed seven and a half hours for an unusual reason: the Miami-based crew’s van to the airport was stopped on the road, and the crew was robbed at gunpoint.

  • The 5:20 a.m. departure meant crew had to be picked up from their hotel at 3:40 a.m. Their van ran over what’s reported to have been a plastic box in the road. It was apparently there on purpose.

  • The driver got out to clear it from underneath the vehicle, a man jumped into the drivers seat with a knife and demanded everyone’s cell phones and electronics. Everyone was allowed to keep their wallets.

  • Then another man opened the van’s sliding side door and jumped inside, brandishing a gun. He reportedly held the gun to the heads of crewmembers until everyone turned over their belongings.

  • Their raid complete, the gunmen left, and the driver took the crew back to their hotel.

According to American Airlines spokesperson Sarah Jantz,

We are aware that our crew members unfortunately fell victim to a crime while en route to Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) on March 16. Our security team is in close contact with local law enforcement and have acted quickly to implement enhanced measures to ensure the safety of our team members.

This isn’t something usually experienced at American Airlines destinations. Three years ago American Airlines was among the last carriers flying to Venezuela so it was profitable, even after the government there confiscated the airline’s ticket sales revenue (they stopped selling tickets in local currency).

Caracas flights featured military pulling suitcases off of flights to loot them. When a bridge collapsed due to total disregard for infrastructure maintenance, an Iberia crew had to sail to the airport. Flight attendants working Caracas flights were being given advice on how to avoid kidnappings.

But Costa Rica? San José isn’t generally among Latin America’s more dangerous cities. Though being on the roads before sunrise is far from ideal. And for Americans being transported to the airport, doubly so. Moving to the realm of speculation, I’d expect that van driver was ‘in on it’, with the item in the road giving him a reason to stop.

Thankfully everyone working American Airlines 1204 is safe, though certainly shaken.

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, 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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  1. How very sad to hear about this happening in the once peaceful and very tourist-friendly San Jose, CR.

  2. Dee please don’t over react. Costa Rica is historically one of the safest and friendliest tourists destinations out there. Many ex pats live there. Thus could have happened in Any major American city.

  3. This could’ve happened in any of America’s third world metros.
    I am looking forward to getting back to Jaco next winter.

  4. I know this is not the “American” way of thinking and hate to hate to live this way, but I admire that Emirates spends a chunk of change guarding its crew on layovers to/from the airport and at their hotel.

  5. CMorgan..does not make for good PR for the country if bus drivers of Americans set them up…very sad..hope the bad guys were found…

  6. I’m willing to bet the driver was in on it. I definitely would of went around it., especially that early in the morning.

  7. Except that it didn’t happen in the USA. in fact I’ve never heard of a crew being robbed in transit from their airport hotel to a US airport.

    This only happens in 3rd world countries. People love to tout how wonderful and safe Costa Rica is and that is certainly true compared to its neighbors. But it’s still 3rd world, and this can happen to any of us.

  8. Horrible situation for these crew members.
    I’m so glad they’re safe and were unharmed (physically)!!!

  9. Costa Rica is a dangerous country. If you visit be aware. Don’t carry big amounts of money, leave jewels in home and don’t show your electronics devices. Thats kind of situation is happening since couple months ago, the government and police know about that method of robbery and they are doing nothing. If something or someone block your way don’t stop.

  10. How pathetic Life can be . So sorry for the crew I am certain fear filled their Hearts . Take Care it can happen anywhere

  11. You guys making masks and robbery jokes are terrible and lacking empathy for humanity. Human beings were put in danger. Shame on you.

  12. Around 2005 American Airlines had a crew stuck in a tunnel out of Downtown Caracas, Venezuela for over three hours by Rebels The crew was eventually allowed to pass. Another incident the crew hotel was almost mobbed by protesters. Thereafter the crews were not allowed to stay downtown.

  13. “Thus could have happened in Any major American city.” Really? Does it really happen in any major american city? People try to use that line all the time but I don’t recall news stories of entire flight crews being stopped on the way to the airport and being robbed at gunpoint in this method. I have heard other stories of a similar nature happening in central and south america. Lets try to be realistic here and not suggest San Jose is comparable in safety to US cities.

  14. Puerto Rico has had corrupt police department for decades.
    I had a friend murdered on the beach for resisting a robbery.
    Sad, but true

  15. @David – tell me more. APA reported to its members that the crew was MIA-based (although in fairness they also said the flight was cancelled, which it was not)

  16. He should not get out from the van he. I drove school bus if I see any thing I won’t get out.

  17. I have been on flights where the pilots were based in say DFW but the flight attendants were based in ORD.

  18. Our crews are based from several different domiciles..legacy usairways always kept the entire crew together. Same base. Same trip.

  19. Finally someone who is well aware of some of the situation in Venezuela. You forgot to add the conditions that the Copa crew demanded to keep flying to Venezuela, to turn around immediately.

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