U.S. military fighter jets were dispatched in two separate instances Sunday to escort commercial flights after reports of suspicious passenger behavior, ABC first reported.
Passengers on an American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to New York City became anxious after three male passengers reportedly made repeated trips to the bathroom, at certain points appearing to communicate with each other using hand signals. Two F-16s were quickly sent to shadow the aircraft, but onboard air marshals were able to diffuse the situation -- reportedly without having to reveal their identity, an American Airlines spokesperson told the New York Post.
The fighter jets accompanied the aircraft to John F. Kennedy International Airport, in what North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) spokesperson John Cornelio said was a a precautionary measure. Port Authority police boarded the flight before any passengers were allowed off at Gate 44 of Terminal 8, the New York Post reported. Passengers were questioned and all were eventually released.
Also on Sunday, a Frontier Airlines flight from Denver to Detroit was believed to be a potential security risk when two passengers were observed allegedly behaving suspiciously, according to the FBI spokesperson in Denver, Dave Joly. The passengers had been spending an extraordinarily long time in the bathroom. Law enforcement sources told ABC News the two passengers were making out.
Asked if he felt authorties had overreacted, airport spokesman Scott Wintner defended the response.
Regardless of why it was triggered, whenever we get a radio call of a security problem on board, our response is the same one we would have had yesterday, tomorrow, Wintner told the Associated Press.
We always react as if it's the end of the world, he added. If it isn't, so be it.