Woman in burqa grounds SpiceJet flight

via PTI | Kolkata published on May 5, 2010

A SpiceJet flight with 123 passengers on board had a scare on Wednesday after two Russian nationals including a woman in burqa behaved “suspiciously” and the plane made a priority landing at Kolkata airport.

The Delhi-Kolkata-Dhaka flight (SG 208) of the low-cost air carrier touched down at the NSC Bose Airport at 11:23 am after being given clearance by the Air Traffic Control(ATC) to land ahead of other aircraft over Kolkata airspace, airport sources said. All passengers were safe.

The aircraft was immediately taken to an isolation bay and was surrounded by CISF personnel, the bomb squad, fire brigade and the police in line with an emergency drill, sources said.

The pilot was give a priority landing after passengers reported the Russian couple to the air crew and the burqa-clad woman passenger with a large frame arousing the suspicion of the air hostesses.

SpiceJet CEO Sanjan Aggarwal said the captain of the flight requested for a priority landing after being alerted about a suspicious passenger by the sky marshal on board.

The couple, who were bound for Dhaka, was reported to be from Chechnya, a Russian province.

The burqa-clad woman Irbanieva Eieonora (42) and her 50-year-old husband Aslan Bekov Arthur were taken to the office of the airport manager where they were questioned.

Both were Russian passport holders and their papers were found to be in order, the sources said.

The confusion arose because of the woman passenger’s manly physique and a language problem, the sources said.

The air hostesses became suspicious when they found her eating without taking off her veil and passing food to her husband, they said.

When questioned the woman passenger replied in Russian which the airhosteses did not know.

The airhostess then informed a senior colleague of their suspicions who alerted the pilot.

There was no hijack threat to the SpiceJet aircraft, a Civil Aviation Ministry spokesperson said in New Delhi.

The emergency procedures, including meetings of the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security and the Crisis Management Group, which are followed in case of a hijack alert were not pursued, official sources said.

On landing at Kolkata, the aircraft was taken to an isolation bay and the security agencies checked all passengers and baggage on arrival, Aggarwal said.

“The matter is currently under investigation by the relevant authorities. All passengers have safely disembarked and the aircraft has been cleared for further flights,” he said.

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