Qatar Airways

Passenger on board Qatar Airways plane escorted by RAF to Manchester Airport breaks bomb threat story as social scoops news media again


By John McCarthy, Opinion Editor

August 5, 2014 | 5 min read

Breaking news took a new social turn when a passenger trapped on the Qatar Airways flight escorted into Manchester Airport by a fighter jet under suspicion of having a “possible device being on board” started live tweeting his experience.

The Airbus A330, flying from Doha, received an RAF fighter escort after the pilot received word of a possible threat on board. Flights in and out of the airport have been closed and the flight is currently grounded.

A young man called Josh Hartley, a self-professed gamer and “saviour of galaxies” starting live tweeting the drama from his smartphone while still in the skies above Manchester aboard the plane.

Hartley was enjoying a holiday in Dubai before the dramatic flight. He started posting images of the fighter escort before the news had even broken on TV.

Hartley’s confusion shows that none of the passengers were informed of the situation.

After landing, the citizen journalist posted pictures of police and fire services surrounding the plane.

While the drama was still unfolding the BBC approached Hartley for an interview... before he had even left the plane.

After taking a very brief call with the BBC in which he confirmed he was no longer on the plane Hartley posted a pic of the passengers being escorted away in a shuttle bus.

Another passenger, university student Matthew Cox, posted a picture appearing to show a passenger being led away by police, who soon confirmed they had made an arrest.

An hour after the incident, which saw the Manchester United players’ return from a successful tour in America diverted, Manchester Police said it was “business as usual” at the airport.

Qatar Airways released a statement which read: “We can confirm that flight QR23 from Doha to Manchester, an Airbus A330-300, landed safely at Manchester Airport ahead of its scheduled arrival time of 13:15. There were 269 passengers and 13 Qatar Airways crew on board. The crew had received a threat about a possible device on board and ‘#QatarAirways’ immediately took all the necessary precautions to alert British authorities.

"The crew is now fully assisting police at the airport with their inquiries. The safety and well-being of our passengers and crew is our top priority. As this is a matter of a police investigation, we cannot comment further at this time."

It wouldn't be a social media story without a selfie in there somewhere, and Hartley and Cox came together for an emotional picture after the plane had landed.

Today's story is the latest example of how social media is changing the face of modern journalism, a theme explored by The Drum in its recent Hacks on Hacking film which looked at how Twitter shook up the 'trial of the century'.

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