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Android hotspot WiFi ‘terror prank’ grounds LA-London flight

An American Airlines flight was temporarily grounded because somebody created a WiFi hotspot and called it ‘Al-Quida Free Terror Nettwork’. 

The source of what’s thought to be a prank is still not known, but the hotspot caused the London-bound Flight 137 to be grounded for three hours. 

Passengers were forced to turn off all electronic devices while airport staff conducted a search. 

Android hotspot WiFi ‘terror prank’ grounds LA-London flight
Turns out grounding a flight for three hours is as simple as calling your WiFi hotspot something dumb

An Los Angeles International airport spokesperson said: “After further investigation, it was determined that no crime was committed and no further action will be taken.”

Most phones come with a WiFi tethering feature which lets you use the cellular data connection (3G or 4G) to create a portable WiFi hotspot. This can be shared with other users can and be used to connect tablets and laptops to the Internet in the same way you would with a mobile broadband dongle. 

Creating a WiFi hotspot is a simple case of heading into the settings of your phone. You can choose to password-protect your hotspot or leave it open for anyone to use and you can call it whatever you want – ‘Tom’s hotspot’, ‘Rachel’s iPhone,’ ‘Danny Dyer’s Chocolate Homunculus’ or even ‘Al-Quida Free Terror Nettwork’.

While there’s nothing to prohibit you from calling a WiFi hotspot whatever you want, there are obvious repercussions from doing something like this. While the identity of the passenger remains unknown, it’s possible that whoever did this could have been on the same flight and essentially ended up grounding themselves for three hours. 

Android hotspot WiFi ‘terror prank’ grounds LA-London flight
A shot of the offending WiFi network

It’s not the first time flights have been interrupted by prank hotspots. The NY Daily News reports that last month a Denver-bound flight was forced to land after passengers discovered hotspots called “Southwest Bomb on Board” and “Bomb Locatoin Seat 19E.” A man was arrested and released without charge – but not after the flight was grounded for several hours. 

Airport security staff are not generally known for having a great sense of humour, especially in relation to bomb or terror-related gags. In 2004, British holidaymaker Samantha Marson joked to Miami Airport staff that she was carrying three bombs in her bag. She was arrested before being sent back on a flight to London. 

Earlier this year, a teenager in the Netherlands issued a prank threat to American Airlines on Twitter, which saw her arrested by Dutch police, an action which spurred other Twitter users to send the airline similarly worded messages.