A passenger was detained after reports of suspicious behaviour on Saturday, forcing the plane to land at New York City’s LaGuardia Airport without its passengers, according to a spokesperson for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. On Sunday, the spokesperson confirmed that authorities had concluded there was no criminal activity involved.
According to Port Authority Police Department spokesperson Thomas Topousis, the decision was taken by the Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is comprised of the FBI and PAPD.
Statement Released By the Port Authority on Saturday
According to a statement released by the Port Authority on Saturday, the flight, a Republic Airways service flying under the American Airlines banner as 4817, was evacuated upon arrival “in response to concerns by passengers of suspicious and erratic behaviour by a fellow passenger.”
Republic Airways stated on Saturday that law authorities and first responders were at the airport to meet the plane, and that “the passenger implicated in the incident” was arrested.
As Topousis explained on Sunday, it was other passengers’ reports of the passenger’s suspicious behaviour, and not an assessment by authorities, that prompted the airline’s security team to take action.
Saturday, “in response to passenger behaviour near the end of the journey,” the plane called for help, per an airline statement.
On Saturday, New York Governor Kathy Hochul tweeted that authorities were “watching the situation” and that “there is no reason to believe there is any danger to New Yorkers at this time.”
According to a tweet sent out Saturday night, airport operations resumed as normal the next day despite the earlier incident.
“The earlier situation involving a disruptive American Airlines/Republic Airways passenger and an evacuation of passengers has been addressed,” the tweet read.
An on-board witness provided this account.
On Saturday, the pilot reportedly notified authorities on the ground and staged a “runway departure from the flight” to let everyone off the jet.
The Port Authority said that in order to find out what happened on the plane, investigators spoke with the passenger who was acting suspiciously and many other passengers who were sitting nearby.
According to a statement released by TSA spokesperson Sari Koshetz, Saturday’s incident “was an example of a ‘See Something, Say Something’ circumstance.”
Koshetz said the captain “took the precaution of parking away from the terminal” after passengers reported observing unusual conduct on the plane.
Koshetz further mentioned that the New York Port Authority Police, along with an Explosive Ordnance Disposal and a K-9 unit, responded to the scene and cleared it.