A bomb scare led to a total shutdown of Oakland International Airport for two hours Monday afternoon as authorities moved a threatened Southwest Airlines jet to a remote part of the airport and searched it, finding nothing.
Southwest Airlines received three calls, two against the airport generally and "one specific threat called in on Flight 337," scheduled to depart for Los Angeles at1 p.m., said Greg Soule, spokesman for the federal Transportation Security Administration.The caller said a bomb was on the plane, Soule said.
"Out of an abundance of caution, we cleared the terminals," Soule said. "We screened the luggage and passengers and the aircraft was cleared."
By 2:08 p.m., both the plane and the airport's two terminals, searched by Alameda County Sheriff's deputies, Oakland Police and TSA agents, were deemed bomb-free. About 15 minutes later, passengers were allowed back into the terminals for rescreening, Minner said.
Erik Sanders of Oakland, 34, an assistant manager for Verizon, said before Terminal 2 was reopened, "I'm inconvenienced big-time." Sanders had a 2 p.m. flight to Phoenix, and said he was hopeful it would be delayed long enough to catch it. When he couldn't get into Terminal 2, he went to Terminal 1, but found its approaches blocked, too.
Hundreds of passengers waited in the airport's parking lots as the searches were conducted, some of them pulled from the terminal just before boarding and others who were just shy of picking up their luggage after arrival.
"We were just getting off of the rental car shuttle bus when we heard about it," said Sheila, Wudke, a former Sausalito resident on her way back home to Las Vegas after visiting friends with her husband, Karl. Even though their flight time had passed, they said they believed their flight would be waiting for them, they said as they marched with hundreds of other passengers through a fast-moving security screening line.
Minner said that all flights were suspended immediately following the threat, and did not resume until passengers had a chance to get back to their gates.
Several agencies are investigating the noontime scare, including the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, FBI and Oakland Police Department.
Staff writer William Brand contributed to this report.