Scary: American Airlines Crew Robbed At Gunpoint In Costa Rica

Filed Under: American

Fortunately no one got hurt, but this is terrifying…

American Airlines crew robbed in Costa Rica

View from the Wing reports on an incident that occurred early Tuesday morning to the crew of American Airlines flight 1204, which was a Boeing 737-800 scheduled to operate from San Jose, Costa Rica, to Miami, Florida.

The six person Miami-based crew (two pilots and four flight attendants) had spent the night in Costa Rica prior to the 5:20AM flight, and this incident occurred on the way to the airport:

  • The crew was picked up from the hotel at 3:40AM, and the van transporting the crew drove over a plastic box on the road, which may have been placed there on purpose
  • The driver got out of the van to clear the plastic box from underneath the vehicle, at which point the crew was robbed
  • A man jumped into the driver’s seat with a knife and demanded the electronics (including cell phones) of the entire crew
  • Then another man with a gun opened the van’s door and jumped inside, holding the gun at the heads of American Airlines crew members, until all belongings were turned over
  • At that point the crew was returned to the hotel, and the flight ended up being delayed by over seven hours

It’s not known if the crew was specifically targeted, or if this was a coincidence, with the van just having been the vehicle to drive over the box. Or I suppose the possibility of the driver being in on it can’t be ruled out either.

American Airlines’ statement on the incident

An American Airlines spokesperson issued the following statement regarding the incident:

“We are aware that our crew members unfortunately fell victim to a crime while en route to Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) on March 16. Our security team is in close contact with local law enforcement and have acted quickly to implement enhanced measures to ensure the safety of our team members.”

Bottom line

At around 4AM on Tuesday morning an American Airlines crew was robbed at gunpoint in a van on the way to the airport, causing a flight delay of over seven hours. What a horrifying incident. On the plus side at least no one was hurt, and presumably American Airlines will reimburse employees for their lost belongings.

While robberies of airline crews aren’t unheard of, they are fairly rare among US airlines, given the limited places they fly and lay over (airlines like Emirates and Turkish have some layovers where crew vans are escorted by police, crews aren’t allowed to leave their hotels, etc.). I would imagine the time of day (or night, in this case) played into the situation, because not much good happens at that hour.

  1. Ben:
    American is an airline

    Bottom line:
    So basically, what I can get from this is that American Airlines is in fact an airline. Now take this as you want, but I can feel safe in saying they are indeed an airline

  2. “Given the limited places they fly and lay over’??? What are you talking about? US airlines fly all over the world, their crews have layovers everywhere.

  3. The USA is one of the and maybe the most connected countries internationally. Or did you mean just now during Covid with limited places they fly to.

  4. I canceled my flight to Costa Rica last week for this reason, I just don’t understand why almost all flights from/ to San Jose are after midnight, is the airport close during the day?!

  5. @ shoeguy @ Stuart — I meant even pre-coronavirus. For example, look at some of the destinations that Emirates and Turkish fly to, where crew vans are escorted by police cars and crews aren’t allowed to leave layover hotels for safety reasons. US airlines don’t have many destinations like that.

  6. Welcome to Central America. But don’t worry since Grandpa Biden will send them $billions and welcome all of them in the US.

  7. why are people taking their cell phones in a foreign country i never take mine or if i do i leave it off the entrie time, i am there to vacation and not be botheredby / addicted to some stupid machine.

    my advice is to leave your cell phones at home if going to a foreign country.!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    people leave the cell phone at home

  8. Who gets out of the car at 4am to remove a plastic box from the road? That was a set-up in the most classic of ways!

  9. @ John. So, you are aware that flight crew aren’t there on vacation right? They work. Their job is to crew the flight…

    For all we know they may have been on a multiple day schedule. All the flight crew I know use mobile apps to keep track of schedule changes etc.

  10. I’m not sure I would assume that AA would be reimbursing staff for personal belongings stolen while on layover. I certainly can’t speak for any airline-specific policies, but my employer is pretty clear that while traveling, lost or stolen personal effects are a personal responsibility.

    @John These are crew, and even at that, most people would consider phones an important tool to summon taxis, find directions, and look up restaurants and tourist sites.

  11. Flight Crews carry their phone because they are working, away from family and gone for days. They aren’t on vacation, secondly no one is expecting that being transported to the airport for work this would happen. AA just have to include security escort moving forward for these early pick ups. This is a traumatizing situation to be in.

  12. @Andy 11235
    In my opinion the financial loss is not so significant. The matter of reimbursement is not as simple, they were in an employer arranged and provided transportation, one might argue with the known risks more care should have been taken.

  13. Why is this news? Why is this of of any interest to this blog?

    What’s next?

    “United Airiness flight attendant suffers diarrhea while vacationing in Cancun”

    “Delta First Officer steps in dog poop on Paris street, ruining expensive shoes”

    “Alaska Airlines baggage handler calls in sick after eating gas station sushi in Seattle”


  14. Clearly a set up – the box left in the road as a trap by the crooks. The driver should have known to not hit such a box and, if hit, not stop for that. He stopped and was likely in on it. This sort of thing happens often in Latin America, which is why you have to always be on guard. Although Costa Rica is a lot safer than pretty much any of its neighbors (you have to go to Chile or Uruguay to find a safer Latin American country), it is still more hazardous than it used to be.

    This is especially true since COVID started, as the whole country is under lockdown and the criminals were actually violating the 6p-6a curfew that is imposed. Why a curfew? Probably because COVID comes out at night to stalk you….

  15. I agree with the others, this was a set up. The financial loss would be significant, at least from my standpoint when I travel internationally for work. Laptop, iPad, iPhone and luggage alone run into thousands of dollars not to mention any jewelry I’m wearing and clothing packed. Think of the headache that will ensue replacing passports, Drivers Licenses, Credit Cards, etc. Hopefully AA takes care of this crew and fixes the problem with better security.

  16. I’d be curious if they took any of the company issued devices (in particular the pilots electronic flight bag) and how it effected operations…

  17. @john “why are people taking their cell phones in a foreign country?”

    OK. I guess one can take a stack of paper maps, a pocket translator, a camera, a calculator, and what not, and leave the cell phone at home.

    Or you can take a smart phone that can do all of that, like everyone else in the 21st century.

    Have you tried to navigate the subway systems in London or Tokyo without an app? I still remember those station maps / system maps that they handed out back then. Maybe you are a fan of those. I’m not.

    TBH, I haven’t relied on the “phone” feature of my smart phone for quite a while. Of course, I don’t count “FaceTime” as a phone call.

  18. ppl forget that this is a THIRD WORLD country! The CR tourism board has done a great job misleading visitors into thinking that this is a tropical paradise when in fact CR is a desperately poor country.

  19. @Mohammed:

    I live in the flight path of SJO which on any given day has about 70 departure flights.

    Exactly TWO depart in the wee hours: Spirit to FLL and AeroBurro to MEX.

  20. Bobo Bolinski, so why are you reading this? Just so you have something to complain about? You see the headline, and yours is the freedom to click, or not to click.
    John, that was the most ‘funny’ advice I ever read on a travel blog. So I guess, the best is, people on vacation travel without cash, credit cards, watches, luggage, and in the most worn clothes they can come up with.

  21. Sad to read about this happening in Costa Rica. Hope the crew get the support and care they’re going to need.

  22. It’s more common than you think. A friend of mine works for an airline and he had a layover in Mexico City. It was a recrew but the speaker was able to stay on the trip. Once they got to the MC, a van pulled up and said their hotel and flight number and they went to get in but the speaker said don’t. She said she does this trip all the time and that’s not the right person. The driver had a lot of their info like hotel name and looked legit so the crew didn’t know what to do until the speaker prevented them from getting in the van. He eventually left and 15 minutes later the real van showed up. Another friend was robbed at gun point on a layover in El Salvador. It happens a whole lot more of them than what’s reported.

  23. @john
    They are at work. Not vacation. Taking your phone is a part of life. Staying in contact with family. Duhhhh.

  24. @shoeguy @Stuart
    Ben is referring to places like Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan.
    American airlines were not flying to such places even pre-Covid.

  25. presumably American Airlines will reimburse employees for their lost belongings

    I don’t know why you would assume that – if an employee is robbed of personal items, the employer almost never would reimburse.

  26. BoBo has the best comments. How about,
    “Van driver shoots to kill all robbers at gunpoint while airline crews are grateful.”
    Sends tremendous message to would-be thieves and robbers.
    Crime drops significantly in Costa Rica as result.

  27. @mohammed, what are you talking about? Almost all flights leave and arrive during “normal” hours.

    @john what’s wrong taking a cell phone to a foreign country. The US is extremely violent. Just go get your noodle wet at an Asian massage parlor or go shopping in high income Boulder, Colorado…

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