On Christmas Day, an international flight heading for Brazil was forced to make an emergency landing on the Atlantic Ocean island of Maderia when the pilots discovered luggage had been stowed into the cargo hold of the Airbus A321neo but the passenger who the luggage belonged to was not onboard.
The ‘bag mismatch’ triggered an immediate security warning, prompting the pilots to land the plane rather than continue for another six hours to Brazil, fearful of a bomb onboard.
TAP Air Portugal flight TP5 took off from Lisbon about 5:30 p.m. on December 25 for a seven-hour flight to Natal, which is located on Brazil’s northeastern tip.
When the pilots were informed to the security incident, the jet had been in the air for almost an hour and a half.
Despite the fact that the single-aisle A321neo was flying above the Canary Islands at the time of the threat, the pilots appear to have elected to divert to Maderia, a nearby Portuguese island with a TAP Air Portugal facility that could handle the situation promptly.
The plane landed at Funchal airport roughly 80 minutes after burning through its fuel. The jet was only on the ground for an hour before continuing its voyage to Natal, according to the Aviation Herald.
Baggage handlers, presumably, soon located the suitcase and removed it from the cargo hold.
Positive passenger bag matching, or PPBM for short, is the process of reconciling passengers and their luggage.
After a series of explosions onboard commercial planes in which terrorists put improvised explosive devices in ‘interline’ luggage that they didn’t accompany, it was implemented roughly 40 years ago.
Although PPBM programs had been developed before to the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, which resulted in 270 deaths, the incident made passenger and luggage reconciliation a regular practice across the industry.
If the luggage has been subjected to security screening before to loading, or if the person made the first flight of a route involving a link but missed the second due to a delay, PPBM is no longer required.
Terrorists are significantly less likely to desire to travel with the bomb because they will perish in the following explosion, according to the theory underlying PPBM.
This was certainly true during the era when baggage bombs plagued the airline sector, and terrorists didn’t want to be a victim of their attack.
Of course, this is no longer the case, and luggage headed for the airplane hold is now routinely screened by the airline industry.