The suspicious device which forced an Air France flight from Mauritius to Paris to make an emergency landing in Mombasa was a false alarm, according to the airline’s chief executive officer.
The Boeing 777 Flight AF463 had 459 passengers and 14 crew members on board. It left Mauritius at 9pm local time on Saturday and was due to arrive in Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris at 5.50am.
After the suspicious device was discovered in the airplane’s toilet, they made an emergency landing at Moi International airport in Mombasa, where the passengers and crew safely disembarked via the emergency slides.
The Air France chief executive, Frédéric Gagey, told a news conference a decision was made to land at the closest airport able to handle a Boeing 777 aircraft after the passenger found the object in the toilet.
“All the information available to us at the moment indicates that the object was not capable of creating an explosion or damaging a plane, but was rather a mixture of cardboard, sheets of paper and a timer. It was a false alarm.” – Frédéric Gagey, Air France chief executive
Gagey congratulated the crew for their cool-headed reaction to divert the plane and denied any security failure, saying a safety check had been carried out in the toilets before the flight.
British newspaper The Guardian, reported that a Kenyan police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the device looked like a cardboard box with a stopwatch taped to it. He said six passengers were being questioned in relation to it, including the man who raised the alarm.
An Air France spokesman said the passengers on the aborted flight were all being accommodated in a nearby hotel and they would depart from Mombasa at 6pm on Sunday on a new aircraft dispatched from Paris, arriving in the capital at 7am on Monday.
After originally posting a statement via Facebook describing the suspect package as a bomb that had “been taken to a safe destination for detonation in the morning”, the Kenyan Airport Authority later deleted the post and replaced it as one referring only to a “suspicious object”.