On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I was set to fly from Oakland back to Baltimore. I arrived at the airport about 90 minutes before my flight. I grabbed a quick beer at Pyramid Tap Room right behind the security line and then head over to my gate.
The flight ends up being about 25 minutes late to land, but no big deal. Then we start to board, and it is the slowest boarding ever. Even two flight attendants noted it out loud while chatting near me.
I’m sitting in seat 3C on the left aisle. Some guy gets on near the end of boarding who seems to be rambling on and on. I cannot tell if he was drunk or not all there in the head. He takes a seat two rows behind me in the middle seat. One of the last people to board is looking for one of the last available middle seats, and he yells out “sit on the floor.” Ahem, that seemed weird to say to someone.
Next, I swear I hear him mention something about blowing up the plane. But I turn around, and the people in the two rows behind me who would have heard it all seem like nothing happened. I chalk it up to me mishearing something and go back to my pre-boarding ritual of playing Solitaire. The guy keeps rambling out loud, but again I chalk it up to him being drunk or missing a few marbles.
As we push back, I see the attendant look oddly at someone behind me. She walks back, and the guy in the middle rows tells her, “The guy behind me has been talking about blowing up the plane and going up high and never coming down.” She asks did anyone else hear it and 2 or 3 other people say yes. I mention I heard it, but no one was alarmed earlier, so I thought misheard it.
So she runs up to the front and radios the captain. We are not yet to the runway but we are taxing that way. The plane makes an abrupt stop, and we sit there for a few minutes. Then we make a turn, and the captain mentions to everyone that we need to make an unexpected return to the gate and apologizes for the delay.
At this point, the people near me are getting nervous, but the rest of the plane knows nothing about the situation. Once we make it to the gate, we sit there without opening the door for a while which I assume was giving time for police to be there. Finally about 15 minutes after we turned back to the gate the door opened and the stewardess invited the person to leave with her. He totally seemed out of if and did not realize what was happening. I think that he must have been missing marbles and not drunk, as even drunk people know when they are getting asked to leave a plane there must be a problem.
Once he walks off the plane, an attendant asks the people in his row which bag was his, and they take that out to the police. The captain comes out and makes a statement to the plane about the situation and tells everyone to relax because the police already believe this to be a mock threat. He asks that we stay seated and wait for the police to finish arresting the man and then we will head out.
We are now an hour behind schedule, but whatever, I am on the plane, and it is non-stop to Baltimore, so no layover worries like some others on the aircraft. So I chill out and fiddle around with my phone for a while. The police come onto the plane and ask for people to provide statements if they heard it clearly. I say I did not so I did not provide one. After about 20 minutes those who did provide statements come back onboard and the plane cheers as it is now time to go.
At this point, the captain re-appears up front with a solemn face. He states to the cabin that while he and police agree the threat was not credible, yet for an abundance of caution, they are going to empty the plane of passengers and baggage (including bags down below) to be able to use K9 dogs to check for any problems.
So my anxiety goes to 11 at this point, but the captain says for everyone to be calm because we will be flying on the safest flight in the country. He makes a good point, and I chill out a little bit. To deplane, we all had to line up on the jetway on the right side with our carry-ons on the left side. Once about 1/3 of the plane had filled the full jetway, a bomb-sniffing dog walked by sniffing everyone’s bags. All clear with our group, so we were let out to the terminal. We were asked to stay close as the goal was to re-board within 20 minutes. Haha, there was no chance of that in my opinion.
So I head out to grab water and grab a snack for the ride. Back at the gate, I see the final group coming off the plane and outside they are starting to re-load luggage into the cargo hold. So it looks like we will be taking off after all.
We finally take off 3 hours behind schedule and thus landing around 1 am in Baltimore. Everyone with a layover is screwed and will be getting put up in a hotel. I, on the other hand, will take an Uber home and sleep in my bed for the first time in over a month. Wahoo.