American Airlines Flight Threatened By Fighter Jets Because Man Brought Laptop Near the Lavatory

American Airlines flight AA31, an Airbus A321 from Los Angeles to Honolulu, was escorted by F22 fighter jets today.

American Airlines Airbus A321

A man standing by the forward lavatory had his laptop with him. I’ve heard stories from flight attendants of passengers bringing their iPads into the lavatory for something to watch while they go.

The man was “waiting for the bathroom” and “a flight attendant asked him to sit down.”

Reportedly he “appeared to try the cockpit door before he was subdued.” The cockpit door, of course, was locked.

The passenger was restrained by law enforcement and other fliers on Flight 31 from Los Angeles, the person said. The severity of the threat was still unclear. The pilots made a gradual descent from cruise altitude to lower levels out of precaution to limit the potential damage in the event there was an explosion, according to the official.

This is being reported as though it means ‘the laptop threat is real’.

Bear in mind that fighter jets escort planes primarily to be prepared to shoot down the aircraft if called upon to do so.

There is of course no word at this time to suggest that there was anything nefarious about the laptop. Although if the administration wanted to advance its case for extending the laptop ban to more flights, including domestic flights, this would be a strategic way to go about it.

To be clear, at this point very little has been reported about what the passenger may have actually done beyond what’s repeated here. We may learn that there’s more too it, and I don’t express a judgment about that. However the reporting, based on little evidence at this time that there was an actually-dangerous laptop but still repeating concerns about flying with laptops, strikes me as unfortunate to say the least.

The “individual who disrupted the flight has been detained” according to the Department of Homeland Security. The threat to passengers who fly with laptops does, indeed, appear to be real.

Update: The passenger was reportedly drunk before he even boarded the flight. (HT: straver) In any case, the laptop piece appears to be a total non-sequitur.

The Los Angeles airport police said at LAX, Uskanil was involved in a separate security incident and was detained but subsequently released.

Police said the suspect went through a door from an LAX concourse that led onto an airfield ramp. He was spotted by a contractor and detained.

Airport police investigated and determined that Uskanil had been drinking.

…Several hours in, passengers and authorities said, he allegedly tried to break through the cockpit door, throwing himself up against a beverage cart as he tried to force his way into the first-class cabin.

Passengers said the man had a blanket or towel on his head, and didn’t say anything as he pushed forward.

…”It took seconds,” said Lee Lorenzen, of Orange County, Calif. “He was pushing against the cart and a bunch of guys grabbed him. They found some duct tape. There were pillows and blankets. And they taped him to his chair.”

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. Your headline definitely expresses an opinion: “threatened” really? This is a fairly routine event and in no way a threat – appears very much to be click bait. Please stop making molehills into mountains and report objectively..

  2. Either an idiot passenger, or a FA that went over the top a bit. From the article you don’t really know.

  3. Perhaps a trump deplorable who was told to help their supreme leader???

    And too stupid to realize the trouble he would be getting into (pretty much describes any trump deplorable…)

  4. He went into first class with a blanket over his head and a laptop… Oh yeah. That sounds perfectly normal.

  5. I agree with FR : “Threatened”? No, the dude with the laptop was the threat. (Yes I know why the F22’s were there. To prevent another 9-11)

  6. Just an excuse to use an incident that really has nothing to do with electronics to push the urgent need for an electronics ban. *sigh*

    From the Flyertalk thread discussing the possible ban comes this link to a CNN article you might find interesting (in a disturbing sort of way):

    So much for routing through Canada or Mexico to avoid the issue! Welcome to Fortress America!

  7. The electronics ban is bogus fake security. The ban has an exception for medical devices. CPAP machines are FAA approved for inflight use. They are much larger and have a lot more hollow space than laptops. Unless terrorists are retarded I think they could figure a way around the electronics ban to hide a bomb.

  8. Incredibly (intentionally?) irresponsible and misleading headline. Par for the course from TLiT though – lefty wet dream click bait, followed by incoherent comments from Trump Derangement Syndrome poster children.

  9. It just blows me away when anti-Trumpers just feel it is OK to use the Trump playbook and insult strangers they don’t even know, be rude and arbitrarily offensive and show their real worth(lessness). But what is your agenda TakeOurCountryBack? Are you trying to bring real change to our obsolete and corrupt systems or are you just acting like an a$$ because that’s the only way you know how to act!

  10. Why doesn’t the title mention that the passenger tried to break into the cockpit door? The title is extremely misleading. It’s not like he was patiently waiting to use the LAV with his laptop.

  11. Given that he had no way actually to get into the cockpit, since the doors are impregnable, there was no danger whatsoever of a 9-11 type outcome. The first time the security state shoots a passenger plane out of the sky because of a drunken passenger behaving stupidly may be the day that people (including the Congress that can’t turn away from partisan political gamesmanship for even a moment)stand up and say “enough” to the growing, and yes dangerous, state security presence in our lives.

  12. Gary:

    Not sure I agree with your headline. Based on what I’ve read, I think the response was because he was a Turkish national who appeared intoxicated, tried to force his way into the cockpit and had to be physically restrained by an off-duty L.A. Police officer and other passengers. The laptop probably had nothing to do with it. I suspect the same response would have occurred sans laptop.

  13. This story has so many holes or am I missing something?
    How did he tried to force his way into the cockpit when he was stopped from entering first class cabin?

    Regardless, middle-eastern man with laptop trying to force his way to the head of the plain is cause for concern.

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