No, There’s No ‘Ghost In The Machine’ On Board American Airlines Aircraft

Earlier in the week there were reports of P.A. systems on board American Airlines aircraft taking on a life of their own – or at least being ‘hacked’. These were highlighted by aviation insider JonNYC.

He reported that on this flight one person at least suggested that it “sounded like a male voice and wouldn’t last more than 5-10 seconds before stopping. And has [intermittently] happened on and off all flight long.”

The initial incident generated some schadenfreude, coming after a flight attendant made the announcement about getting the airline’s Barclays co-brand credit card. I noted that the issue occurred right after the P.A. was used.

This wasn’t the only flight where this was said to have occurred. It’s not clear from social media reports whether this next report is from a different aircraft or if it was the P.A. on the same Boeing 737-800.

Nonetheless, the hacked or ghost announcements became the subject of much crew scuttlebutt, including on an unrelated Airbus A321.

Lucky at One Mile at a Time proceeds with the assumption that these are different aircraft involved, and that the explanation has to be hacking of the PA system, a haunted plane, or a “very strange tech glitch” and finds hacking “the most likely.”

[I]t’s absolutely terrifying to think that it would be possible to hack the intercom system on a plane from the ground, so I’d love to hear some other theories.

To be clear, the P.A. system is wired – it is not wifi or bluetooth-enabled. My first reaction when I saw this was, that’s simply not possible, right? It does not seem to be.

American Airlines inspected the Boeing 737-800 as well as the P.A. system itself after these reports. They tell me that maintenance “determined the sounds were caused by an issue with the PA amplifier. There was no external access to the system.” A malfunctioning P.A., along with other non-critical electronic systems, on an A321 would not surprise me either.

The Ghost in the Machine may be on the verge of coming to fruition but not inside of American Airlines P.A. systems.

On the other hand, American Airlines did confirm one of its planes made contact with a UFO over New Mexico last year.

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. Depending on the flight or aircraft, a pre-recorded safety announcement still tells the listeners to refer to their American Way magazine for more safety information. Also on international flights with the pre-recorded video has reference to the American Way. It has been quite some time since the American Way was in the seat pockets. It´s time for American to do some information housekeeping.

  2. The best aviation intercom prank happened at LHR asking for the following passengers to report to the airport information desk.

    Arheddis Vakeenjaab and Aywellbe Fayed
    Arhevbin Fayed and Bubiyev Ribody
    Makollieg JezVahted and Levdaroum DeBazhted
    Steelaygot Maowenbach and Tuka Pizinizti

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