Schiphol emergency a "false alarm" says airline

Schiphol Amsterdam
Schiphol Airport. Jul 16, 2015Photo: Boarding2Now/DepositPhotos

A massive response to an aircraft boarding at Schiphol Airport on Wednesday evening turned out to be a false alarm, according to the airline involved. The crew of an Air Europa flight to Madrid had already boarded 27 passengers when a pilot accidentally pressed the emergency distress button in the cockpit at about 6:45 p.m., the airline said.

"On the Amsterdam - Madrid flight this evening a warning was triggered, by mistake, that initiates protocols for hijackings at the airport," the airline said. "Nothing has happened," the airline continued, saying all passengers were awaiting an imminent departure. "We are very sorry."

All passengers and crew were safely escorted off the plane by 8:35 p.m., said the Marechaussee, the military branch tasked with policing Dutch airports. The incident was still under investigation, and Air Europa's version of events was not confirmed by any official agency as of 10:15 p.m.

The Marechaussee confirmed there was a report from the cockpit of either a hijacking or a hostage situation, setting off the protocol at the airport for handling such a situation. "Research has yet to show how this report could have happened," the military branch said.

Dozens of flights were delayed, the airport confirmed. There were no cancellations because of the incident.

"The most important thing now is that everyone involved is safe. For the passengers involved and the crew, relief and assistance, if necessary, is arranged," said Marianne Schuurmans, the mayor of Haarlemmermeer, the municipality where Schiphol is officially located.

Justice Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus said he was "impressed" by the response to the incident, calling the authorities "sharp and alert," according to RTL Nieuws.

Air Europa flight 1094 was scheduled to depart at 7:10 p.m. The Marechaussee confirmed a suspicious incident at 7:30 p.m.

The crew error triggered a large response from the Marechaussee, a tactical arrest team, police, paramedics, and trauma teams dispatched by helicopter. Portions of the D concourse were evacuated, and several areas of the airport were under lockdown. A Grip 3 protocol was triggered, coordinating the emergency response across all involved agencies, the public health authority for the region, the mayor's office, municipal leaders, and the King's Commissioner for the province.

"As a result of the investigation by the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee, our D pier was temporarily closed. From now on, there is a regular operation at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol again," the airport said at 9:17 p.m. Twenty minutes later it confirmed the D pier was reopened.

The airline said the flight was expected to depart at 9:40 p.m., though the airport said 10:50 p.m. was more likely.

Passengers, airport staff, and authorities in the affected areas remained remarkably calm, according to several witnesses at the scene.

There was a rumor that a Dutch F-16 fighter jet was ordered to patrol the airport's airspace, but a Defense Ministry spokesperson told this did not actually happen.