Pilot Cancels Transatlantic Flight Because Of Passenger’s Wifi Hotspot Name

Filed Under: Security/TSA

The Sun reports that earlier this week a Thomson flight from Cancun to London Gatwick was canceled after the disturbing name of a passenger’s Wi-Fi hotspot was discovered. The flight was due to depart just hours after Monday’s terror attack in Manchester.

Shortly before the flight was scheduled to depart, a passenger discovered a Wi-Fi hotspot with the name “Jihadist Cell London 1.” The passenger informed the crew, and they launched an investigation. The problem is that no one confessed to having had the network name, and eventually it was deleted.

I think it goes without saying that this was a prank gone wrong — anyone who actually had bad intentions would (hopefully) be more intelligent than to give a Wi-Fi hotspot such an obvious name. At the same time, something like this is in horribly poor taste.

Since no one took responsibility for what happened, the captain called the police, and they boarded to inspect passengers’ phones. They also brought on armed officers and dogs to do a security check on the plane.

The captain announced over the PA that he refused to fly unless the culprit confessed, and unfortunately no one did (which isn’t really surprising, since they knew it would be tough to track them down, and there were potentially big consequences). As a result, the flight was canceled, and all the passengers had to spend an extra night in Cancun.

Per The Sun, here’s what the captain announced to passengers:

He said: “Someone has something on their phone which had an extremely subversive title to it –

Jihadists Cell London 1 – and obviously we have to take this kind of thing very, very seriously.

“Someone has managed to do this on a hot point and it is a security issue and I’m sure you’ll understand I’m not prepared to depart with something like this on the aircraft.

“The first thing I’m going to say is that if someone on this plane has that on their phone for a laugh, it would be very advantageous to you to come forward and talk to one of the cabin crew and you could save yourself a lot of time.

“Whatever, this is utterly unacceptable. Our security people are looking into this.”

The pilot later informed passengers that the Wi-Fi hotspot name had been deleted.

But he wasn’t prepared to fly until the culprit was identified.

What an all around unfortunate situation. Clearly there was no safety risk, but at the same time it seems they didn’t really have much of an option. It makes sense that they’d want to catch the sick person who thought this was funny. In the process of trying to find that person they also alerted everyone to the situation, which made people hysterical. At that point the airline had no choice but to follow through on their promise and cancel the flight.

  1. “Clearly there was no safety risk, but at the same time it seems they didn’t really have much of an option. ”

    Sure they did. If there’s no safety risk, fly the plane.

  2. Seems it was more a case of the pilot wanting to save face or make a point than any real or perceived security risk.

    In either case, dick move by the pax and dick move by the pilot/airline, imho.

  3. I don’t know that the captain could be certain there was no risk, and his position to the contrary was not tenable – had anything gone wrong once they were aware of that situation. It was almost certainly a prank – but not certainly a prank. I believe the captain was left with no choice and that the way he described the situation and the consequences was measured and reasonable.

  4. The thing is that that person would board in next day’s flight, unless he/she had been caught by the officers. So it’s the same situation but without this name in the wifi hotspot.

  5. Not sure how wise a move this was by the authorities. “Jihadists Cell London 1” implies the existence of at least a second cell, and possibly more. Rooting out this first one may have provided a short term safety gain, but now there’s no evidence to further investigate Cell 2 (and 3, 4, …???). It would have been really helpful to preserve the chain of evidence.

  6. @Hosea , hahaha, reminds me of a college prank when students got live pigs, marked them 1, 2, 4 and let them loose on the campus. Then the pigs were quickly caught, but many hours were spent unsuccessfully trying to find the missing pig 3 🙂

  7. When an SSID is broadcast a MAC address is also shared. The wireless MAC address of the device can be stored by the other stations seeing this device and may be able to be traced back to an original manufacturer, model and perhaps even a device. Playing stupid games like this could have very long term consequences and it’s not impossible to find out who it belonged to.

  8. If you were the passenger who did this and you spoke up, would you be charged with a crime? It seems like given the two options of having the flight cancelled for everyone or you going to jail in Mexico, you might choose the former choice and tough out the cancellation.

  9. What will happen the next day when all the pax turn up for the delayed flight. The pilot and security services still don’t know who the culprit is.
    Will it be safe to fly now, or does the pilot keep refusing on a daily basis until someone owns up?

  10. Another case of security nonsense. A WiFi hotspot name does not constitute a credible security threat. Passengers were screened as usual and this couldn’t possibly be an indicator of an imminent danger.

    I really do not understand this mindset of constant unsubstantiated paranoia that seems to have replaced common sense in commercial aviation…

  11. And which terrorist would be stupid enough to name their network jihadist cell tower????
    Now if we’re to land in a johadist compound and one of the passengers phones automatically connected to the wifi….. then I’d have a problem……… I kid, I kid

  12. Well, wait and see for a ban on ALL electronics. Traveling by plane has become a huge PITA. I avoid it at all costs.

  13. If there clearly no risk then the plane should have been flown. End of story. I think the pilot’s position is that they did not know if there was a risk or not so had to cancel the flight. What type of jackass thinks this is funny though? I still don’t see the point in cancelling the flight though if they checked everyone again and checked the plane. The person that did this was just put on the plane the very next day….

  14. If someone placed a post-it note saying something similar in the lav I can guarantee the flight would be cancelled, specially as it’s a plane filled with shaken British people reeling from the mass murder of little girls at a pop concert. I think the pilot did the right thing.

  15. Truly not cool if a jokester. The pilot works a job on a daily basis that flew into twin towers. I flew right after the suicide German flight. The pilots were so concerned about their reputations and respectful of possible fears. It was a solemn experience. Luckily, I wasn’t much of a flyer in the post 9/11 days cause I did not want to and had no reason to.

  16. It is not safe to risk a flight. Every time an incident occurs to a flight, there are serious consequences.

  17. It’s well known in security circles that jihadist cells use wifi hotspot names that contain “jihadist cell”. That’s their weak point—they may know that give themselves away by doing that, but their covenant with ISIS requires it. The captain did absolutely the right thing, except that once the name was deleted or changed, there was no further danger and he could have flown.

  18. Zero tolerance. Good call Captain. If this were in the US the FBI could have launched an investigation and waterboarded all the passengers and found the culprit.

    Hail Trump ! The presidents of Lithuania and Montenegro are inferior .

  19. I’m personally more concerned that so many people on here think a Wifi hotspot name is a credible threat!

  20. How can you even assume there was no risk? Not .01%

    Personally I would pissed if I was on that flight but even more so at the one who played such an insanely stupid joke. If over 18, they should be blacklisted from flights for life and possibly face jail or 5000 hours of community service.

  21. I would be fine if they flew after they determined who did it and made sure they suffered severe consequences. Perhaps lifetime ban from fights or 5000 community service or both.

  22. Corey Sacken – You can assume there’s no ADDITIONAL risk for the very simple fact that no jihadist names their Wifi hotspot Jihadist cell London 1…

    This is proven further by the fact that the police, airport security and the airline all let the suspected jihadist take the flight when they couldn’t identify who it was…

  23. So: 1) the Pilot cancels the flight and takes tons of criticism from most of you posting Einstein’s, or 2) he doesn’t cancel the flight, he and the passengers die. All you Einstein’ critize him and the airline for not canceling the flight.

  24. I think it was the main problem that he mentioned security would look into the case, so whoever was it had no ambition to identify himself.

  25. EGH4 – I’m no Einstein, it’s basic common sense… Why was the pilot perfectly happy to fly the suspected jihadist the next day if there was a real risk?

    There are also more options than cancel the flight or everyone dies…

  26. “So: 1) the Pilot cancels the flight and takes tons of criticism from most of you posting Einstein’s, or 2) he doesn’t cancel the flight, he and the passengers die. ”

    A-yup. Them’s the only choices.

  27. Interestingly it doesn’t even say “Bomb” or “Hijack”… I’m curious if the hotspot says “Islamic Cell” or “Alla Akbar”, will that also be considered a threat?

  28. I was on the flight.

    Clearly the threat was averted by putting up the Jihadists in a swanky Cancun all-inclusive resort. I assume the Jihadists came to their senses after drinking and eating their way to enlightenment toward the Western way because they got right back on the flight the next day and didn’t blow up the plane!

    So kudos to the pilot for a night of free booze and food (better safe than sorry and definitely need to cover your ass these days). Kudos to the passenger that probably just had a cached WiFi entry in his phone – nobody else saw it and apparently it was just a screenshot of the network.

    And what is a Jihadist Cell anyway? Had to google Jihad and Jihadists..

    I guess it’s not only in bad taste, but illegal to be a Jihadist? And i guess Jihad is a clear threat? I’m glad the pilot was as informed about Jihadism as he was about WiFi tech.

    In my worthless opinion they should have just thrown all non-whites and non Christians off the plane and at least let the good people go home to their families..

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