Lavatory Note Stirs Fears at Austin Int'l Airport

Passengers on a JetBlue Airways flight from Boston to Austin were detained and questioned for several hours Thursday after a crew member found a suspicious note in one of the airplane's bathrooms, authorities said.

The crew of Flight 1263 found the note after the flight landed at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport about 11 a.m., said Agent Erik Vasys, an FBI spokesman.

The flight attendant thought the note was marked in Arabic, and that "sent up alarm bells" given Thursday's news about an alleged terrorist plot thwarted in England, he said.

The crew notified Transportation Security Administration agents at the airport, and they called the FBI, which within hours determined that the note was harmless.

Vasys said the note was written in Cyrillic characters, used in several Slavic languages. He did not say what the note said but when translated, it "turned out to be no threat, no relation to the flight."

Doug Johnson, a spokesman with the TSA, also did not know what the note said.

Passenger Greg Clark, a research scientist and lecturer at the University of Texas who had been in Boston for a conference, said flight attendants and other airline employees kept going in and out of a bathroom after the plane landed.

Clark said that there was an announcement about a security concern and that the passengers were then loaded on buses and taken to an empty room at the airport.

"I wasn't actually that nervous," Clark said, except while waiting for the buses to arrive. The longer the passengers remained on board, he said, he wondered "if the plane was a danger, why weren't we getting off?"

After being taken inside the airport, Clark said, law enforcement officials did a roll call using the flight manifest, showed passengers a photocopy of the note and asked whether they knew who had written it or what it said.

Passengers were instructed to stand with their carry-on bags while they were sniffed by bomb-detecting dogs.

Despite the tense situation, Clark said, "everybody was really relaxed, actually. People were making jokes and talking," he said.

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