Passengers boarding a plane owned by a local aircraft company, FlySax from Ukunda in Kwale County to Wilson Airport in Nairobi have narrated the agony they went through in the hands of four Israeli citizens, who reportedly took over the plane.
Peeter Altpere, one of the passengers told Nairobian that the four Israelis threatened the travellers while forcefully photographing them moments after the flight, SAX 540 took off from Ukunda at about at 12.15pm.
The passengers said the four had been taking videos after the flight was delayed for one hour. They were also seen praying “using Israeli prayer tools,” including wearing the Jewish black prayer band known as Tefillin among others.
When the plane arrived, Peeter says the Israelis “rushed and took the front row seats facing the cockpit and started interacting with the cabin crew. One of them was a woman, after which the flight took off and the crew started serving snacks."
He further says that one of the Israelis entered the cockpit and stayed there for several minutes.“One of them came out and took over the inflight intercom, and made an announcement that they were taking over the plane and that all passengers should follow their instructions,” narrates Peeter.
A female passenger who filmed the incident through her phone said passengers feared for their lives as the four kept on asking the crew whether they were fine: "Some two seated Israelis rose and started taking pictures and filming passengers, which was not communicated before boarding the flight in Ukunda… the crew watched us and did not take any action,” the woman who had been on vacation in Ukunda said, adding that “passengers should not be subjected to such fears in this age of terrorism.”
They then stopped filming the passengers moments before the plane landed at Wilson Airport at 1:30pm.
The Israelis stayed in the plane once it landed. The incident was reported to Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) security office.
Duty officer Norbert Senerwa, who filed the complaint with Kenya Civil Aviation (KCA), while confirming knowledge of the matter said: “I am aware of the incident. They reported to me and I took them to Kenya Civil Aviation Office which deals with matters that arise when passengers are on board a flight and also SAX 540.”
In a statement about the incident , George Kivindyo, a director at SAX 540 said: “It has come to our attention that passengers aboard flight 06/02 from Ukunda to Wilson felt harassed after a group of filmmakers took control of the PA system, made some jokes about taking control of the aircraft and claimed they were permitted to seat in the cockpit. Our crew allowed this to happen, they were overwhelmed by the situation and by the time they took full control the damage was already done.”
“We would like to take full responsibility and sincerely apologise. It was not our intention to cause panic and disgruntlement of passengers. This is not a usual occurrence on board any of our flights and we shall ensure this does not happen again in the presence of our valued clients. We will ensure total compliance to our safety regulations. Our sincere apologies,” he added.