Prior to September 11, 2001, United States regulators taught airplane crew members to comply with hijackers and implored passengers to sit quietly in order to better their chances of survival. Now, American flight attendants and pilots receive extensive training designed to thwart hijackers, and its likely that passengers would act in the event they believed they could become victims of terrorists willing to commit suicide using an airliner.
In China recently, this change in approach to hijackers was on full display.
In June, six Uighur hijackers targeted a Tianjin Airline plane minutes after it took off from Hotan Airport in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region in eastern China. Uighurs are largely Muslim, and represent a substantial minority population in Xinjiang.
According to Xinhua news, the hijackers turned a crutch into aluminum pipes to use as weapons and attempted to detonate bombs to open the cockpit door. At first, the airplane’s crew and passengers were understandably shocked. But then they fought back, subduing the hijackers and tying them up with belts as the airplane returned to the airport.
At least 10 people, including four crew members, were injured in the attack. Two hijackers died from causes that weren’t specified in news reports.
According to the Global Times, the remaining four hijackers are now in police custody. Whether they are part of a terrorist group remains unclear.
Rewards for good behavior
Nine members of the crew received rewards for their braveness that might lead even the meekest among us to consider facing down terrorists.
According to the Sohu news site, Hainan Airlines, Tianjin’s parent company, awarded two security guards and the plane’s chief flight attendant $159,000 in cash each, an apartment worth $477,000 and a car. The rest of the crew each received around $80,000 in cash, a $318,000 apartment and a car.
Hainan Airlines also gave free lifetime airfares to 22 passengers on the flight who helped subdue the hijackers, according to Xinhua.
The cash and other rewards have become a hot topic among Chinese netizens. Many have circulated a popular post that says, “There will be no hijackings in the future, since the passengers will know that means when they see hijackers — a 3 million yuan apartment, 1 million yuan cash and a sedan, a lifetime of free air flights…probably every passenger will wait for hijackers as eagerly as wait for their first love.”