Here is one of the more bizarre local stories I’ve come across lately. The story reads like some sort of funny urban fable and I kept waiting for the bizarre punchline at the end. I would love to know more about what happened on this flight…it would make an excellent TV movie….
Passengers on a United Airlines flight to Honolulu this summer told KITV that they thought they were being hijacked.
A man was speaking a foreign language on the intercom and men wearing matching shirts were blocking the aisles, passengers said.
Despite the passengers’ fears, United said it did not feel anyone was in danger. So, law enforcement was not called in.
Now, the passengers’ fear has turned to anger toward the airline.
“I thought that I was going to die,” passenger Ethel Walker said.
“It certainly occurred to me that we may be living through a terrorist incident,” passenger Steve Bartlett said.
Bartlett and Walker of Makiki were seated together on a July 10 flight from San Francisco. About an hour out of Honolulu, visions of the Sept. 11 hijackings came to their minds when a voice spoke a foreign language over the intercom.
“That gave me a warning that, OK this is pretty powerful. If he can take over the (Public Address) system like this,” Walker said.
The two passengers saw more than a dozen young men in matching green shirts all around the cabin.
“I would describe them as somewhat confident, a little bit swaggering,” Bartlett said.
“I decided if I am going to die, I am going to die trying to do something about this,” Walker said.
Walker left her seat after the foreign voice spoke a second time and found a flight attendant who appeared scared to her.
“I got close to her and I said, ‘Are we OK? Are we safe? I am afraid. In fact, we are all afraid.’ She said, ‘I’ve lost control of my station,'” Walker said.
Walker said another passenger told her she was thinking the same thing as another passenger spoke.
“She said, ‘My husband and I, and my sons, and I were planning on how we were going to take the terrorists down,'” Walker said.
A Transportation Security Administration investigator told Walker and Bartlett in a letter that “United Airlines acknowledged a serious disruption on your flight… the result of unruly Brazilian teenagers on a tour… managed by one chaperone.”
United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy said in a written statement that it took no action because “at no time did we feel the safety of our passengers was in question.”
“I don’t know what was on those kids’ minds that day, but United failed us,” McCarthy said.
Walker said she was so shaken by the incident she has been getting counseling and has given up the traveling she loves.