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.