Spanish Airbus Lands With Fighter Escort After Hijack Alarm

An Airbus SAS (EAD) A320 jetliner operated by Spain’s Vueling Airlines SA (VLG) and carrying 180 people was intercepted by two Dutch air force F-16 fighters after a loss of radio contact prompted concern that the plane had been hijacked.

Vueling flight VY8366 from Malaga to Amsterdam was escorted to the Dutch city’s Schiphol airport, which initially prepared for a hostage situation, Martijn Peelen, a spokesman for the Netherlands military police, said by telephone.

The alarm was later canceled, according to Barbara Fisa, a Vueling spokeswoman who said the emergency had resulted from a “misunderstanding” after the jet made an unusual maneuver and couldn’t immediately be contacted by air traffic controllers. A similar incident occurred over France in May, 2011, she said.

“Everything is normal at the plane, everybody is relaxed as there’s nothing going on,” Felice Roedema, a passenger on the plane, said in an interview over the phone with NOS television.

The Royal Netherlands Air Force Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) F-16s capable of flying at 1,500 miles per hour were scrambled from Volkel air base, where they form part of the Quick Reaction Alert unit established during the Cold War, according to the Dutch defense ministry’s website.

The incident comes after a Vueling jet flying the same route was intercepted by a French air force Dassault Aviation SA (AM) Mirage 2000 fighter last May following an incident over northern France which also involved “losing communication,” Fisa said.

Barcelona-based Vueling is Spain’s second-biggest airline and operates a fleet of 59 leased Airbus A320-series planes.

To contact the reporters on this story: Manuel Baigorri in Madrid at mbaigorri@bloomberg.net; Fred Pals in Amsterdam at fpals@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.net

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