When a mobile hotspot with the sinister name ‘Mobile Detonation Device’ popped up on a woman’s Wi-Fi menu before take off on a Qantas flight from Melbourne to Perth on Saturday, the flight ended up delayed for several hours.
It’s not the first time such an event has happened. In 2014, an American Airlines flight from Los Angeles International Airport to London was about to take off when a passenger searching on their mobile device for a Wi-Fi hotspot came across a connection named ‘Al-Quida Free Terror Nettwork’. A big delay followed.
According to a report in the Daily Mail, the Qantas captain told passengers the delays were due to a “device”, possibly aboard the plane, that needed to be located.
One passenger told Channel Seven the pilot had asked the owner of the threatening hotspot name to come forward with their device.
After half an hour no one came forward. Qantas gave passengers the option of getting off that flight and booking another flight with the airline. About 40 people agreed to do that. The QF481 flight was delayed for several hours while Australian Federal Police boarded and the plane was searched.
Where the hotspot was, who knows – but within range of the mobile, obviously. It could have been in the terminal, or elsewhere – not necessarily on the plane.
It was the same with the American Airlines flight in 2014. That plane was towed to a remote part of LAX and held there for three hours. All passengers were told to turn off their electronic devices.
The AA passengers said they were told initially that it was a maintenance issue. After an hour, they learned the truth – the Wi-Fi hotspot name constituted a threat and the plane was waiting for security clearance to take off.
“After further investigation, it was determined that no crime was committed and no further action will be taken,” the airport told AB7, a Los Angeles news channel.
Anyone naming their hotspot ‘Al-Quida Free Terror Nettwork’ is more likely to be a 12-year-old schoolboy (and a poor speller) or a prankster than a member of a terror cell, but you never can be too careful.
The same seems to hold true for last Saturday’s ‘Mobile Detonation Device’.
Written by Peter Needham