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What should you do if your plane is hijacked? Latest travel advice


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Terrorism is one of the biggest security concerns in the UK at the moment, and while most people hope they never experience an attack personally while travelling – what should you do if the worst happens and your plane is hijacked?

A terrorist attack is a frightening experience it’s hoped most people will never experience. Plane hijacking is extremely rare but it does happen – so what should you do if the worst happens and you’re caught up in a terror incident? This is the latest travel advice.

A pilot told Express.co.uk that all pilots are well-trained to deal with the eventuality.

“All airlines will have their own procedure,” he said, adding that passengers should listen to cabin crew and try to stay calm if their aircraft was hijacked.

Following the World Trade Centre attack on 11 September 2011, when two planes were hijacked, US Homeland Security developed a list of survival guidelines that passengers caught up in a hijacking should follow.

The US National Terror Alert site states: “Remember that the hijackers will be extremely nervous and probably as scared as you are. Although they may appear calm, they cannot be trusted to behave reasonably or rationally.

“Fear can trigger a disaster. One wrong move by either a victim or a hijacker could easily set off a defensive spate of violence.”

The best outcome of a plane hijacking is a “peaceful resolution of the situation.”

The National Terror Alert advises against challenging hijackers physically or verbally.

“Comply with their instructions,” the guidelines state. “Do not struggle or try to escape unless you are absolutely certain of success.”

If passengers are told to adopt a certain position, it’s advisable to talk yourself into relaxing into that pose as you may be in it for a long time.

flight plane hijack cabin crew 9/11 twin towers
Flights: After 9/11 US Homeland Security developed a list of survival guidelines (Image: Getty Images)

Fliers may need to prepare themselves mentally and physically for a long ordeal.

Behave as inconspicuously as possible. “Blend in with the other airline passengers,” said Homeland Security.

“Avoid eye contact with your captors. Don’t draw attention to yourself with sudden body movements, verbal remarks, or hostile looks.”

If the hijackers do single a passenger out, it’s important to reply in a calm tone of voice, keep answers short and be responsive – but do not volunteer information.

If a plane is hijacked pilots will use a special code to communicate such a scenario to air traffic control back on ground.

flights plane hijack 9/11 terrorist attack
Flights: Fliers may need to prepare themselves mentally and physically for a long ordeal (Image: Getty Images)

The distress code of 7500, sent through an electronic device called a transponder, signals a hijacking or unlawful interference.

This communication, called squawking, is done silently so that the hijacker remains unaware, thereby creating an advantage for pilots.

It’s not the only distress code pilots hope they never have to use.

Squawking 7700 indicates a general emergency, while 7600 signals a loss of radio communication.

This isn’t the only codeword that pilots and cabin crew use. For instance, if someone dies on a plane the crew will use a codeword to alert colleagues to the situation.

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