Vietnam Airlines is the flag carrier of Vietnam. Founded in 1956, the airline was established as a state-owned enterprise in April 1989. A member of the SkyTeam alliance, Vietnam Airlines is headquartered in Hanoi, and has hubs at Noi Bai International Airport and Tan Son Nhat International Airport.
Like almost all other airlines worldwide, Vietnam Airlines paused services in March 2020 due to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic. The airline didn’t start commercial flights again until its first domestic flight in October 2021. Its first commercial international flight, originating in Cambodia, didn’t happen until January 1, 2022.
On January 5, Flight VN5311 was scheduled to fly its first regular flight between Vietnam and Japan since COVID. The flight, which originated at Japan’s Narita airport, had 47 passengers, 3 pilots and 12 attendants on board.
Roughly 40 minutes after the flight took off, Vietnam Airlines’ office in Japan received a phone call with the following threat:
“Flight VN5311 had better turn back to Narita or it will be shot down when passing Tokyo Bay.”
The caller was male. He spoke Japanese but said he was American.
When the airline employee asked the man to repeat the message, he said: “I am preparing to shoot VN5311 when it flies above Tokyo Bay. It had better turn around.”
The Japan office called Vietnam Airlines’ headquarters in Hanoi, which then reported the call to Japanese authorities, the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) and an agency of the Ministry of Public Security.
The airline also called an urgent meeting of its emergency and anti-terrorism task force. With permission from Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh and Minister of Transport Nguyen Van The, the CAAV directed Vietnam Airlines to ask for Japanese authorities’ permission to land the aircraft at Fukuoka Airport.
After a quick turnaround over the East China Sea, the aircraft safely landed at Fukuoka, in southwestern Japan, about 2 hours later.
Japanese authorities and police visited the airport, checked the plane, and interviewed the flight crew and passengers to evaluate the situation.
Nothing unusual was found and the flight was allowed to continue on its journey a little less than 3 hours later.
The aircraft landed safely in Hanoi at 6:12 pm Hanoi time.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) is coordinating with Japanese authorities for an investigation.
It is interesting that the plane took off at 10:30 am local time (well, looks more like 10:43 am) and had already passed over Tokyo Bay by the time the threatening phone call occurred at roughly 11:10 am.
Obviously, they wanted to ensure the plane was safe. But since they passed over more than a half dozen decent-sized airports before landing in Fukuoka, I wonder if they didn’t find the threat to be all that believable.
Feature Photo: NegativeSpace.co
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