Passenger thought she and her children would die after someone airdropped a bomb threat on flight

Southwest Airlines diverted the flight from Hawaii to Oakland  (Getty Images)
Southwest Airlines diverted the flight from Hawaii to Oakland (Getty Images)

A Southwest flight from Las Vegas to Maui was diverted after a passenger used Apple’s AirDrop feature to send threatening images to fellow travellers and imply there was a bomb on the plane.

The flight departed from Vegas at 9.21am, 3 July, but was forced to make the U-turn to Oakland just an hour into the flight as passengers were alerted to “mechanical issues”.

Passenger Valerie Maluchnik, who was travelling on the flight with her 15-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son, said she thought they were all going to die.

“In my mind, I’m like, ‘Is this thing going down?’ and then it just kind of spiralled from there,” she told Insider, adding that she overheard a flight attendant repeatedly muttering, “Get me the f*** off this plane.”

“I’m like, ‘Oh my God, this is it. This is the end for me and my kids’,” she said.


Wtf??? Who would do something like this #flight3316

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In a series of TikToks documenting the alarming bomb scare, the teacher and mother of two travelling with her children said, “I knew that there was something explosive involved because there were dogs when we got off the plane.

“We were being asked if we had been sent an AirDrop by somebody who had an explosives unit polo on.”

An Oakland County Police deputy came onboard the “active runway” to announce a security incident that required passengers to leave the plane with only their phones, IDs and boarding passes.

Passengers were held for six hours as police investigated the threat before they got their luggage back and were able to continue to Maui on a new plane.

Maluchnik praised Southwest Airlines' composure while resolving the situation, telling her followers: “This is not Southwest’s fault.”

The person who AirDropped the image has not been identified and the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office says the investigation is ongoing.

No explosive device was found onboard the plane.

Southwest Airlines said in a statement: “We place no priority higher than safety and we’re grateful for patience and understanding during this delayed journey to Hawaii.”

It’s not the first time the AirDrop feature has been abused in-flight. A Pennsylvanian teenager was arrested after sending a bomb threat to fellow passengers via Apple Airdrop on an American Airlines flight in February 2023, while an AirDrop prank by a 10-year-old led to a hijacking scare for Alaska Airlines in March 2022.