When 180 passengers boarded a plane in early September, they didn’t think they’d soon find themselves in the middle of a child custody dispute.
Little did the passengers know, the routine international flight to Beijing, involved an apparent kidnapping that unfolded 35,000 feet in the air.
The United Airlines flight departed from Virginia’s Dulles International Airport at 12:39 p.m. But just after it had reached in to Canadian air space, the captain received an FBI order to return the Boeing 777 back to Virginia. Allegedly, the kidnapping suspect was on board the flight.
The plane returned to Dulles, just five hours after it had departed.
Announcement of Child Custody Investigation
When the plane reached the gate, according to passenger Lane Bailey, the pilot made an announcement that the return to Dulles was the result of a child custody investigation.
According to sources from law enforcement, a child and his mother were traveling on the airplane. The child’s father, a U.S. citizen, had alerted the FBI that the mother was taking the child to China, and that he feared that she had no plans of returning.
Once the plane reached the airport the mother was arrested by police for charges of attempted kidnapping. The child was then safely returned to his father.
During the ordeal, the passengers were not given any information. “The pilot came on board and said we were experiencing mechanical problems,” Bailey said. “After they left, the pilot came back on and said that he deliberately mislead us, he thought that, in his judgment that it was the best thing to do, given the circumstances of potential abduction that that’s the reason we had diverted.”
Protracted International Custody Battle
If the plane had landed in Canada or China, without the intervention of the FBI, the incident could have become a protracted international custody battle.
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Source: CBS News, United Airlines flight diverted over child custody battle, September 5, 2014