View Full Version : CX -400 returns to LHR with security scare, any info?

7th Jan 2003, 07:52
CX -400 returns to LHR with security scare on the 7th Jan. Anyone got more info?

Wanchai Butterfly
7th Jan 2003, 13:50
Apparantly aircraft left LHR and soon after take off it was discovered bags were on board of pax who was flying to HKG
with BA and not CX.

Returned about 4hrs out.

Not bad. 8hr flight and you still end up in LHR

A/c was B-HOS. Will operate delayed -CX250 tonight

7th Jan 2003, 14:13
Would someone kindly clarify the situation for me, with regard to "unaccompanied baggage"? Subject, of course to any security limitations.

In this instance, if there was any sort of risk at all, why then fly for an additional 4 hours? Would it not have been sensible to divert to the nearest alternative airport?

Secondly, if they knew that the "owner" was on a different flight, would they have been able to use discretion, and get the BA Cabin Crew to observe/interview said passenger for any signs of foul play?

Or is it mandatory to return to point of departure?

Many thanks

7th Jan 2003, 18:24
Was this not a bit of overkill? How is it different from, say, the bags being accidentally loaded onto an earlier flight to the same destination? Would that cause a diversion/return to origin as well?

Though I suppose I can think of one possible answer. IIRC, BA operates to HKG from T4, while CX is at T3. Does this mean that the bags had interlined? Was this why everyone was jumpy?

7th Jan 2003, 18:38
The question remains: why did they RISK an additional 4 hours flying time :confused: Poor policy. I would have thought that an immediate diversion to a suitable airport would have made a lot more sense.

Hand Solo
7th Jan 2003, 19:03
All security threats are assessed by very skilled threat assessors. Presumably this situation was assessed as low risk with no requirement for an immediate landing. As such if a diversion needs to be made to offload the bag then commercial decisions come to the fore and it was probably better to return the passengers to LHR where they may have stood a better chance of travelling on a later flight and where those who no longer wished to travel could go home.

7th Jan 2003, 20:29
low risk with no requirement for an immediate landing So why turn back at all ? :confused:
Not second-guessing y'unnerstand (I wasn't there), but unless the passenger had somehow contrived to become separated from the bags, this would seem to be no risk at all. Fear of busting SOPs maybe ?

7th Jan 2003, 20:58
The inmates are in charge of the insane asylum that is known as security...

Lets hope that the Captain had no part in this decision..

Cpt. Underpants
7th Jan 2003, 22:30
Cathay's policy is to never accept unaccompanied baggage. Period. In my opinion, given the present world circumstances, this policy is a correct one.

7th Jan 2003, 22:59
Cpt. Underpants

You miss the point, once the operation is in motion common sense or airmanship rules the day...

IMHO and as others have pointed out this was not a good operational decision given the information known to the forum.


Buster Hyman
7th Jan 2003, 23:15
Well, they could've done what a certain Euro airline did here once.
They received a bomb scare ex SIN to MEL. The aircraft turned back, then decided it was a hoax so continued on to MEL. Upon arrival, the crew demanded a full security search of the aircraft.

Yeah, that was a fun day!:rolleyes:

Hand Solo
8th Jan 2003, 01:14
There is also the question of where could the aircraft go given the decision had been made to land. I suspect a 747-400 en-route to Hong Kong is going to be well over its max landing weight for some time after take off and without dumping the fuel it may well have been four hours before the aircraft could land anyway so why not continue on to Heathrow? Should the situation escalate there are sutiable en-route diversion airfields, but why create an emergency situation when a realistic security assessment suggests there isn't one.

Tan - I think you miss the point. Company policy is company policy. The decision to offload the bag will almost certainly have been made by the company. Once that decision is made, the decision as to how soon and where that bag can be off-loaded is down to the flight crew. I would suggest that common sense prevailed in this incident. Four hours eastbound out of London there aren't that many places you'd want to take a 744 unless it really was a genuine emergency.

fire wall
8th Jan 2003, 02:13
LHR-HKG is about 13 hrs flt time ie ultra long haul and so heavy crew...duty time is in the vicinity of 15 hours. To stop off enroute is out of the question due duty constraints on multi sector flight. Crew are on reserve in LHR for such circumstances as a turn back. 4 hours would have been adequate time to get all concerned briefed and ready for a quick turn around. Max landing weight considerations with a belly full of fuel all come into play.
Last but not least is company policy as indicated by Capt Undies.
There is always more to the situation that that seen at first glance by a number of respondants to this forum.....aka Tan...you miss the point.
All in all a sensible and professional result.

8th Jan 2003, 03:49
Interesting thread !

A few weeks ago I was transiting ATL. My connecting flight was a 3 hours stop over. Arrived over 1 hour early so made a mad dash to the departure gate in time to make the earlier flight BUT no even though there was space I could not travel because my baggage was not on that flight.
Sounds good so far eh.

A few weeks before, on a another trip I arrived at my destination Sans Baggage !!
So what does the airline do.
They put it on the next flight Sans Pax !

Structured security ???
:rolleyes: :rolleyes: :)

8th Jan 2003, 06:39
A slight difference there Tshirt. You checked in your baggage and boarded the flight. Your baggage was misdirected and not loaded. Baggage is found and sent to you on next available flight after being screened by x-ray. There is no need for you to be on that flight anymore as your baggage is obviously not a threat.

8th Jan 2003, 07:25
Just a question concerning time and cost here.

The bag was considered low-risk, if any. Four hours into the flight and four hours back equalling at least eight of thirteen hours generating a heck of a lot of costs to the airline with absolutely no return on invest. Iím not a bean counter, but that seems somewhat of the scales to me.

Assuming that this bag was a serious threat to the flight, eight of thirteen hours would have been a high gamble would it not? Hence an immediate diversion would have occurred, disregarding of any duty time or cost.

Based on the info available here today, the decision to return to LHR makes no sense - either it is an emergency and you divert or it is not and you might as well carry on.

8th Jan 2003, 08:02
UK DTLR regs state quite clearly that NO aircraft, irrespective of nationality may depart any UK aerodrome with unchecked baggage on board. Unaccompanied baggage that has been cleared with the relevant procedures may travel but is required to have an unaccompanied hold baggage certificate signed. If you do not have this certificate then it doesn't travel - period. Our company requires the loadcontroller to sign a different declaration stating that all baggage recorded is on board and that he certifies that no unknown baggage is loaded in accordance with our company regulations. If we don't have this certificate signed and presented with the loadsheet, then pushback does not begin until it is presented and signed by PIC.
Twice our aircraft have been recalled recently back to stand due to the procedure being missed, several knuckles being severely rapped. CX procedures sound very similar to ours.

8th Jan 2003, 08:23
Hand solo, I would have thought that somewhere like Dubai would have been be a suitable alternative, in this instance, without jeopardising crew hours. It is about 7 hours out of Heathrow, so would have provided earlier landing, it is en route, although would have added about 1000 miles to total journey, and surely has the right facilities for such an incident. Also served by both BA and CX. Just a thought.

Buster Hyman
8th Jan 2003, 09:59
Slingsby. How on earth would the loadcontroller know what bags are on board the aircraft? He can only rely on the loading staff to do their job, unless, of course, he's sitting in the baggage make up area watching...in which case, how's he doing the loadsheet?

Be very, very careful what you are asked to sign for.

Max Angle
8th Jan 2003, 11:18
Overkill in my opinion, the pax's bags had just been accidently loaded on to the wrong flight, if they had no part in it and it was a pure cock-up then why turn back. That said, if the company wants you to turn back then you have little choice, it's thier aeroplane after all.

8th Jan 2003, 11:43
Hand Solo

No it has to be treated just like any MEL situation. Once the aircraft is in the air many parts of the MEL do not apply. Common sense which is equated to good airmanship runs the operation. That's why some pilots are good operational pilots and others are not. The same applies to any airline, the good operational ones stay in business, the others go broke...

IMHO with the facts known to this forum this was not a good operational decision by whoever was responsible...

8th Jan 2003, 12:00
VR, you are right, I had misread the situation, thinking the unaccompanied bags were on BA not CX. Of course, no point CX shedding them at DXB, with no BA onward flight! However, if they wanted them off regardless, DXB still as good as any!

By the way, are you trying to increase your post count? Posted after VR-HFX had posted same message twice, now he's gone and deleted both!!

8th Jan 2003, 12:03
The whole policy on unaccompanied baggage seems to me to be illogical.

We now know that the determined terrorist is prepared to martyr himself for the cause. Therefore the presumtpion that bags in the hold belonging to a passenger on board are safe no longer applies.

Should we not consider screening all baggage?

8th Jan 2003, 12:16

You ask:
Should we not consider screening all baggage?

That's now being done in the USA.


Wanchai Butterfly
8th Jan 2003, 13:37
A little bit more inside information.

Pax had travelled from Portugal with BA and bags were checked through to HKG.

LHR to HKG was on CX. So if the passengers knew they were going to fly a different carrier, surly alarm bells tell you, "what about my bag"its not on my flight.

This problem was discovered about 2hrs out of LHR. By now it was 0100am in LHR so not alot of ground staff to help out as to were pax were. Eventualy found out pax were on BA.

Even 1 percent of doubt as to why pax on 1 airline and bags on another is suffice to make the correct decision.(was this a planned mistake)

However much people Knock both CX and BA, there probably 2 off the best airlines in the world.

By the way the aircraft was abeam SVO when decision was taken to turn back.

SVO is hardly suitable alternate for CX at about 0400am in the morning.

At least LHR had time to sort out hotels, and suitable facilities.

At the end of the day. if your the driver and your carrying dodgy bags, would you rather get home,or return back to a suitable port.

8th Jan 2003, 13:44
Thanks for that WB, I was not aware that the flight path was so far North.


8th Jan 2003, 16:42
SVO is hardly suitable alternate for CX at about 0400am in the morning. But emminently suitable in an emergency, one assumes. Either the situation warranted an emergency landing or it didn't - apparently the latter.

I doubt anybody disagrees with the policies of not accepting (CX) or departing with (DTLR) unaccompanied bags. The mere existence of such policies does not prevent it from happening, clearly. Turning around just for the sake of policy (absent real threat) seems over-amping things a bit on the face of it.

You splitter
8th Jan 2003, 17:00
We now know that the determined terrorist is prepared to martyr himself for the cause. Therefore the presumtpion that bags in the hold belonging to a passenger on board are safe no longer applies.

Charlie, u are right of course.
I dont think anybody would say that just because a bag in the hold corresponds to a pax in the cabin that this means it is definately safe.

However an unchecked unaccompanied bag is still definately more of a risk.

At least the b**tards know that they have to travel with the bomb now!


8th Jan 2003, 19:25
Wanchai Butterfly

I don't believe anyone on this thread was knocking either carrier. I have great respect for both. However the decision making in this particular incident, well I wasn't there but the "A" team certainly wasn't there either...

8th Jan 2003, 21:14

You state that:

"Should we not consider screening all baggage?

That's now being done in the USA"

In response to that I say 'somewhat'. If airports couldn't install the necessarry equpment by 2003 they actually received the equivalent of a free pass until 2004.

I'm not to name many of the offending airports for security reasons, but many still do exist...


Max Angle
8th Jan 2003, 22:13
The UK has had 100% hold baggage screening for years.

I don't know if bags that come in from outside the UK are all screened before being transferred or just the ones that come from countries that do not x-ray all bags. Bags that are flown unaccompanied are x-rayed from 3 directions and it happens all the time, day in, day out.

I have actually been in the same sort of situation though only on a short haul flight. I decided, along with the guy on the ground, that the damage had been done and there was no point turning around and going back.

Would I make the same decision now post 9/11 ?. Well I have always felt that there is no half-way house in these situations. There is either a security threat, in which case you land ASAP and get everyone off, or there is no threat and you carry on as normal.

View From The Ground
9th Jan 2003, 00:01
Yes ALL Baggage is screened in the UK including transfer baggage, wherever it has originated from. Since the screening methods at LHR for all types of baggage is extremely stringent, and advanced there is actually very little risk from an unaccompanied bag that has been through the regular x ray procedures. This being the case the return to LHR decsion seems a little strange since it is either an immediate risk requiring an immediate diversion or a minimal risk whereby if its safe to fly for abother 4 hours back to LHR how much extra risk is there in continuing on to HKG? If it was thought the bag had not been through LHR X ray procedures I believe that would be sufficient reason to want the bag off the flight ASAP.

9th Jan 2003, 00:54

Sorry was having probs with my computer and easier to delete the lot rather than make a mess.

Think WB has covered most of the detail and use of northern airways.

Murphy's Law decrees that his sort of thing usually happens in the middle of the night when there a very few hands on the pump.

That having been said there were two hours between discovery and the decision to return and join the 0600 stack at LHR. Plenty of time to talk to the PAX on the BA a/c and better ascertain the risk. This may have been done.

As someone stated, the inmates are running the asylum when it comes to security and most drivers now leave their commonsense at home and follow SOP's to the letter...even if it is gobbleygook. What's USD 100,000 when you can get hauled over the coals for exercising commonsense but not the letter of the SOP's??

As to how the bags got on one flight and the PAX another, only time will tell but if the CX flight was full and the PAX was on a subload ticket....

End result was probably 400 glum faces at LHR plus one unhappy soul waiting at the carousel at CLK.

Predictable result in this day and age methinks.

9th Jan 2003, 11:00
According to Airbus a typical long range diversion costs between $1-3 Million US

9th Jan 2003, 12:55

That's a lot of money Tolouse on one diversion!!

Maybe that's why the Airbus is cheap to buy and expensive to operate. 5 diversions in 10 years and that's USD15m.

Between USD1m and USD 3m.....show me spreadsheet. I assume the USD1m is for a diversion to Tehran and the USD 3m is for Bahgdad....USD10,000 for the landing fees and the rest to buy the a/c back.

Someone is having a lend of you mate.

9th Jan 2003, 13:18
Tan, not sure about that cost figure, extract from the Airbus site for A340 has - "The four-engined A340 is free of the extra costs and complications which apply to all ETOPS flights for its two-engined competitor: extra equipment and maintenance, training and spares, a more stringent Minimum Equipment List and pre-flight check. To these must be added the risk of a commercially damaging diversion to an isolated airfield, with repairs and passenger assistance costing up to $1 million"

My italics.

9th Jan 2003, 13:32
VR-HFX & newswatcher

This is the link it's pretty heavy reading or is it the small print whatever, enjoy...


9th Jan 2003, 14:21
Why there is a such a furore about unaccompanied x'rayed bags when many tons of cargo are routinely carried on pax ac

9th Jan 2003, 14:37

Because it's all part of the window dressing that passes for security..

Personal baggage makes the headlines making the politicians look good, cargo doesn't...

9th Jan 2003, 15:14
All baggage irrespective of origin is xrayed using the latest in technology and the bar code number is scanned into a system known as BRS. If it's not in the BRS, it's not on your aircraft. If it's on your aircraft and not on the BRS, a problem is there. But how do we know, we have to trust our ground staff implicitly. (that goes down to security screening - but thats another story)
Cargo is either screened by xray if small enough or held pending a detection procedure or a prescirbed time limit prior to loading.

The DTlr here in the UK, have very stringent regulations on un-checked and unaccompanied baggage on aircraft. If they believe and operator knowingly allowed such items on board an aircraft and failed to resolve the situation immediately, they do have the power to impound aircraft, levy very hefty fines and finally suspend an operators AOC licence for UK airspace. Draconian I admit but why risk even the slightest wrath of the authorities even if you can be sure that the bag is safe and has been xrayed.

Having just completed an audit with an inspector, I can tell you human they are in appearance but god like in wrath.