Air Arabia Moroc’s Wild, Fake Diversion To Mallorca

Air Arabia Moroc’s Wild, Fake Diversion To Mallorca

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This has to be the most unusual flight diversion story we’ve heard in a long time…

Air Arabia Maroc’s medical diversion to Mallorca

On Friday, November 5, 2021, Air Arabia Maroc flight 437 was scheduled to fly from Casablanca (CMN) to Istanbul (SAW). The 2,085-mile flight was operated by an Airbus A320, and was scheduled to take 4hr30min.

While the flight departed as usual, an alleged medical situation arose after takeoff — a Moroccan man became ill, and it was believed that he was suffering a diabetic coma. The pilots asked to divert to Palma de Mallorca (PMI), and sure enough, the plane landed there pretty quickly to offload the passenger so he could get medical attention.

Air Arabia Maroc diverted to Mallorca

Sounds like a pretty standard medical diversion up to this point, right? Well, here’s where it gets strange…

20+ passengers flee plane in Mallorca

When the plane landed in Palma de Mallorca, not only did the passenger with the medical issue and his companion get off the plane, but 20+ other passengers also fled the plane. The passengers literally made a run for it across the tarmac, jumping over the airport’s perimeter fences.

This security beach caused the airport to be shut down for nearly four hours. As a result, a total of 13 flights had to be diverted, and on top of that 40 flights were significantly delayed.

Oh, and that ill passenger? He was discharged quickly, and detained on suspicion that he had faked the illness in order to illegally get into Spain. His travel companion also fled from the hospital. In the end, 24 people were involved in this incident, but only 12 have been detained. That means half of the people who escaped still haven’t been found.

After the diversion, the plane ended up returning to Casablanca with those passengers who didn’t try to make a run for it. I’m guessing at this point the crew would have timed out if the flight were to continue to Istanbul.

Was this an elaborate, orchestrated scheme?

This sounds like something straight out of a movie, and initially there had been questions about just how well organized this scheme was:

  • Did the passenger who was hospitalized fake the illness so that the flight would divert? If so, was this all timed so that the flight would divert to Spain?
  • Were all two dozen passengers involved in this scheme in advance, or did some of the people just decide to make a run for it as a spur of the moment decision?

As more details emerge, it’s becoming clear that this was planned in advance:

  • Police found a Facebook group for young Moroccans, discussing this very topic
  • There was a post on July 17, 2021, which explained how it’s possible to enter Spain using the exact method that these passengers did
  • The Facebook post recommended booking the Casablanca to Istanbul flight, and then having someone “feel unwell” so that the flight diverts to Spain

It’s hard to imagine that this is a coincidence. What remains to be seen is if all two dozen passengers were in on this plan in advance, or if only some were, and then some decided just to make a run for it when they noticed what other people were doing.

One has to wonder if this could have long term effects for diversions, at least in some regions. Could crews become more skeptical of medical issues onboard? For flights that do divert with medical issues, will they now not only have to wait for an ambulance to show up, but also for police backup?

Bottom line

An Air Arabia Maroc flight diverted to Spain on Friday evening due to a passenger with an alleged medical issue. When the plane landed in Palma de Mallorca, around two dozen passengers escaped, literally making a run for it across the apron and towards the airport perimeter fence. This caused the airport to be shut down for nearly four hours.

It was later determined that the initial medical diversion was likely faked, and that this whole concept was planned in advance as a way of getting into Spain. At this point around half of the 24 people who got off the plane in Spain have been caught, while the others are still on the loose.

Is this the wildest diversion ever, or what?

Conversations (28)
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  1. SL Guest

    All planned in a facebook group. https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2021/11/345415/a-moroccan-facebook-group-staged-great-escape-in-spain-airport

  2. Sam Guest

    If this had happened in the United States, no effort whatsoever would be being made to apprehend those who had fled and entered the country illegally. Increasingly the US feels like a failed state.

    1. lbk New Member

      I guess you've spent significant time in failed states then to understand this comparison?

  3. Dan Guest

    Very inventive economic migrants, to be fair.

    1. NDR Guest

      +1 yep for sure the UAE budget airline Air Arabia sells flights 150$ Round Trip
      Between Morocco & Turkey there is 4 airlines 2 of them are Low Cost carriers AIr Arabia and Peagasus.

  4. BruceLee Guest

    This is all was orchestrated according to the Moroccan news press and since August they were planning it on Facebook group, equipped with GPS for the exact location of the plane and also they were evenly distributed across the plane to not attract attention , can't wait to see this adventure become a movie one day ! Why not

    1. Eskimo Guest

      Very interesting, I thought they used Airshow or sextant from the window and not a real GPS, so they ended up on an island.

  5. Julianoki Guest

    A german tabloid reported on this incident, explaining how it was planned. The newsoutlet BILD displayed the detailed description that was shared via social media on how to force a plane to land by faking a medical condition. So running away while the plane was parked was indeed not a spontaneous decision by a few, but consequence of careful planning.

  6. Alec Guest

    Is it hard to get a tourist visa from Morocco to a Schengen country? Considering these people had passports and means to book an international flight, why not just overstay a visa? I assume they'll be giving Spain all their passport info anyways...

    1. RNS New Member

      Its one thing to get a visa for Turkey (or use on-arrival) and another for Schengen.

      The checks for flights departing to Schengen, UK, US etc are always stricter than to most other countries.

      Holding a "weak" passport, I can tell you our experiences are not as pleasant as others who can travel at will and get on-arrival or no-visa needed.

      And from my own experience living in certain parts of the world, you will...

      Its one thing to get a visa for Turkey (or use on-arrival) and another for Schengen.

      The checks for flights departing to Schengen, UK, US etc are always stricter than to most other countries.

      Holding a "weak" passport, I can tell you our experiences are not as pleasant as others who can travel at will and get on-arrival or no-visa needed.

      And from my own experience living in certain parts of the world, you will be surprised at the human will for people to run away from the chaos of their home country for a peaceful life.

      Cheers!

    2. lbk New Member

      It's quite difficult to get a tourist visa from Morocco to a Schengen country without elite connections.

  7. Juergen Guest

    I am afraid this will set an example. It might not be the most popular opinion but I feel that given the strict rules and penalties put on legal migration for war refugees from Syria and Afghanistan alike. Geneva laws permit air travel for refugees but EU penalties will punish airlines granting such a right to proven refugees. This means a normal passage which would cost probably less than 500 Euro to a safe country...

    I am afraid this will set an example. It might not be the most popular opinion but I feel that given the strict rules and penalties put on legal migration for war refugees from Syria and Afghanistan alike. Geneva laws permit air travel for refugees but EU penalties will punish airlines granting such a right to proven refugees. This means a normal passage which would cost probably less than 500 Euro to a safe country is then shifted to criminal organizations selling the illegal passage for 10.000 Euro. Each year thousands die because of this. It would be easy for the EU to organize legal migration of those needing it, and may be find ways for those not fleeing from a war. It’s just not meant to take place. Until then we will see more of such stories.

  8. M. Fernand Guest

    Please...do you still dare to insinuate that such a scam, exploiting the openness of a democratic country as Spain...,migth have been true? That perhaps someone was truly ill? Ple-a-se. Stop rigth there. Try such a scam in Morocco. Come on.

  9. Hobbs Guest

    The strangest non-diversion was when terrorists took over IAD's control tower to free a Central American drug lord dictator in custody. All incoming flights circled the airport for hours rather than fly into nearby Baltimore. An off duty NYPD officer saved the day.

    1. Eskimo Guest

      Yippee Ki Yay, MOFO.

  10. hypertext Guest

    Can anyone recommend a nice "security beach" in the US? Thanks x

    1. Eskimo Guest

      Are you joking?

      Look at the southern border.

  11. VT-CIE Gold

    The word in the title is not Moroc, but Maroc.

  12. Stuart Guest

    I would imagine they were hoping and planning for a diversion to a mainland airport. Landing on an island was probably not exactly ideal for this, lol.

  13. VT-CIE Gold

    This reminds me of all the times Pakistan International Airlines flight attendants have mysteriously disappeared, whereas in fact they have very likely broken free of their employer’s clutches and started a new life.

  14. Eskimo Guest

    LOL, those illegal immigrant was either unlucky or it was bad planning. They ended up on an island rather than the continent. At least it was Mallorca not Ibiza. If it was Ibiza all would have been caught by now.

  15. Donato Guest

    If this happens again it will require a rethinking of much of worldwide protocol, possibly a massive police response to any sick passenger diversion.
    I still remember the beginning of preflight security security as a result of depressed Cuban immigrants wanting to return to Cuba the easy way. It might be hard to imagine but there was no security prior to those Cuban.....

  16. Robert Baxter Guest

    I assume this happened after dark when it would be easier to hide on the apron.
    Airport authorities will have to devise protocols to prevent a re-occurrence.

  17. Never In Doubt Guest

    Google the articles about how refugees in Morocco regularly try and force their way into Ceuta and Melilla, which are Spanish cities *within* Morocco, so they can then claim asylum.

    That requires them to be pretty fit, willing to assault a high wall/fence, and probably get hurt much of the time.

    At least this scheme can be attempted with only a plane ticket.

  18. Mark Guest

    Quick correction! the plane didnt continue on to Istanbul, the plane actually returned to Casablanca.

  19. Sean M. Diamond

    Not the first time a fake illness has been used to try and circumvent immigration laws. I've sadly had to deal with this personally at least twice in the past with people who subsequently made miraculous recoveries and refugee claims. Of course not on the scale of this incident, but it doesn't surprise me.

  20. ken Guest

    I am a bit surprised by the fact that you are surprised. Maybe it is because you live in US as an american and never interacted with illegal immigrants who went through worse stuff to get to the US. Some people cross oceans with a tiny boat or walk through a desert to make this happen, so faking a medical sickness is probably easier. Would you be sruprised if cabin crew did not show up...

    I am a bit surprised by the fact that you are surprised. Maybe it is because you live in US as an american and never interacted with illegal immigrants who went through worse stuff to get to the US. Some people cross oceans with a tiny boat or walk through a desert to make this happen, so faking a medical sickness is probably easier. Would you be sruprised if cabin crew did not show up for her work during layver? hmmm, happens more often than you think....Some people go through years of training the cladder climbing to be a crew in a flight to US or EU. It is a lot easier to run off from an airplan on tarmac than crossing mediterranean sea. What I am surprised is that the spanish authorities didn't have the preparedness for diverted aircrafts...

  21. Ray Guest

    Probably orchestrated. The concern now is if this sets a precedent that others would later follow. And if so, should we have a framework to mitigate future events?

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Hobbs Guest

The strangest non-diversion was when terrorists took over IAD's control tower to free a Central American drug lord dictator in custody. All incoming flights circled the airport for hours rather than fly into nearby Baltimore. An off duty NYPD officer saved the day.

5
RNS New Member

Its one thing to get a visa for Turkey (or use on-arrival) and another for Schengen. The checks for flights departing to Schengen, UK, US etc are always stricter than to most other countries. Holding a "weak" passport, I can tell you our experiences are not as pleasant as others who can travel at will and get on-arrival or no-visa needed. And from my own experience living in certain parts of the world, you will be surprised at the human will for people to run away from the chaos of their home country for a peaceful life. Cheers!

2
VT-CIE Gold

This reminds me of all the times Pakistan International Airlines flight attendants have mysteriously disappeared, whereas in fact they have very likely broken free of their employer’s clutches and started a new life.

2
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