Israel Airlines flight from New York that was escorted by military jets in Europe following a bomb threat has landed safely in Israel.
The airline’s president David Maimon said Flight 002 from John F Kennedy airport touched down after an anonymous tip was received regarding a potential bomb threat on board.
Following the tip, France and Switzerland deployed military jets over their airspaces as escorts for the Boeing 747 plane flying towards Israel.
At Ben-Gurion Airport, worried relatives awaited the passengers in the arrival hall. The passengers themselves said they were unaware of the drama until landing.
Passenger Rivi Aharon said: “We came out of the plane, there was somebody from the news who asked if we know anything and we said we didn’t feel anything. He said they thought three was a bomb on the plane so I was very nervous.”
Another passenger, David Machlis, said: “I heard that the plane was accompanied by a fighter plane. But I did not see it … Not knowing was the best situation in my opinion.”
The Swiss air force said in a statement that it deployed jets at around 8.30am local time on a so-called “hot mission”, that accompanied the flight.
Vladi Barrosa, a spokesman for the Swiss government-run air navigation service Skyguide, said the plane left Swiss airspace safely into Austrian airspace.
The incident caused concern among locals in German-speaking Switzerland after two sonic booms echoed after two Swiss F/A-18 aircraft were deployed for the escort.
Mr Barrosa, working in the Zurich area, said he too heard the blasts. “I thought my windows were about to burst,” he said.
He said French military jets had also escorted the flight prior to its entry into Swiss airspace.
The threat was unfounded but it marked a rare security scare for El Al, generally regarded as one of the world’s most secure airlines.
A French air force spokeswoman s aid jets accompanied the El Al flight from the moment it entered French airspace at the Atlantic Coast of Cherbourg until it crossed the Alps into Switzerland.
The El Al pilot was in constant contact with the French pilot and with officials monitoring the air space, she said, adding that if it had been a confirmed threat they would have ordered an emergency landing.