Just before midnight on Monday, Paris-bound Air France flight 83 was diverted to Montreal following an "anonymous threat," according to the airline. Nearly six hours into the nine hour and 40 minute-long flight from San Francisco, the crew responded to the incident by turning back and landing at Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport in the Canadian province of Quebec. No security risks were found on the Boeing 777, but the implications could loom large for the airline. Air France has suffered financially since the November terror attacks in Paris.
In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, Air France KLM officials told reporters that the airline group is out about $54 million due to concerns about safety in the French capital following the attacks. Chief Financial Officer Pierre-Francois Riolacci told reporters that bookings from the United States and Japan were among the hardest hit, according to CNBC. He estimated it would take at least three months and as many as six for bookings to recover, based on the company's experience following attacks in Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005.
The terror attacks, which left 130 dead in coordinated attacks in and around Paris, have had a negative on the greater French economy too. In economic estimates by the French central bank, also released Tuesday, the country's economic growth likely will have dropped by a quarter in the last three months of the year, resulting in a loss of about $543 million in economic activity. The bank said in a statement that hotels, restaurants, and leisure activities saw the biggest impact due to the attack.
Despite the setbacks, Air France said they would still hit economic projections for the year. The airline had actually seen some growth in passenger seats sold at the beginning of the month, but it reversed after the attacks. Combined passenger traffic for Air France and KLM, whose hub is in Amsterdam, actually grew 1.8 percent in the month of November compared with 2014 despite the attacks, although short- and medium-haul flights were down.
As for Monday's Flight 83, the 231 passengers and 15 crew members were estimated to arrive about seven and a half hours late to Charles de Gaulle in Paris. Local authorities checked all passengers, luggage, and the plane before giving the all clear. The airline announced it was a false alarm just before 4 a.m. ET and the flight continued on to Paris just before 7 a.m. ET.
While passengers were delayed, the company's newsroom Twitter account announced, "Air France staff is actually taking care of all passengers." Passengers told NBC News that they were told the detour was for "operational reasons." One passenger, Fred Simon, told the network that the passengers had stayed calm and the airline had even passed out ice creams.
Monday's incident was actually the second time Paris-bound Air France flights leaving the United States have been diverted since the terrorist attacks. On Nov. 17, just days after the attacks, one flight was diverted to Salt Lake City, Utah, and another to Halifax, Nova Scotia, in Canada after both flights received bomb threats. Flight 65 was en route to Paris from Los Angeles and Flight 55 from Washington's Dulles International. Both bomb threats were called in from the ground.
While not a physical danger to passengers, these false alarms still count as terrorism. For Air France's sake, as well as the flying public, those responsible must be found and prosecuted.