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Saudia Plane Isolated at Manila Airport after Distress Call | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Passengers disembark from a Saudi Arabia Airlines plane parked at the tarmac of Ninoy Aquino International airport in Pasay city, Metro Manila, Philippines September 20, 2016. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

A Saudi Arabian Airlines plane was temporarily isolated on Tuesday after landing at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport following a false hijack alarm, airline and airport officials said.

The flight crew mistakenly pressed a hijack warning button as it approached Manila’s airport, causing airport officials to mobilize security forces and isolate the jet after it landed.

Saudi state television said the incident was over, and passengers could be seen disembarking from flight 872, which was travelling from the Saudi city of Jeddah to Manila.

Earlier, a pilot on board had advised the airport’s control tower that the plane was “under threat”.

“We instructed (the) aircraft to proceed to (the) isolated area,” the airport’s general manager Edmund Monreal told reporters.

The plane was carrying 410 passengers and 21 crew members, he added.

“It is fortunate that upon landing … the crew said they made a mistake. However, we can never play around with safety and security.”

“It (the button) was unintentionally pushed. But the problem is it was pushed twice.”

Monreal and other officials said Flight SV872 from Jeddah made the distress call about 30 miles (48 kilometers) from the airport. Airport authorities asked for a verification of the emergency message and the flight crew confirmed the distress call twice, he said.

Monreal added that the plane would be checked thoroughly anyway as a security precaution.

In a text message to Reuters, Roberto Lim, undersecretary for aviation at the Department of Transportation, said police will interview people to know why a hijack signal was issued by the pilot.

The incident came after Philippine officials in February announced they had strengthened security for Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Manila and its national airline because of a possible threat. At the time, officials also said additional armed officers were posted in the boarding area for the Saudi flag carrier and to guard the airline’s luggage.