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Flight Cabin Crew Refuses to Fly After Bomb Threat

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From Staff and Wire Services

A United Airlines flight from Newark to Los Angeles was canceled last week when seven attendants refused to board the plane because they feared that it was the target of a terrorist bombing, officials said.

The U.S. Embassy in Oslo had received a threat saying that an unnamed flight bound for Los Angeles from New York on Jan. 3 would be blown up. However, the caller did not mention a specific flight, saying only that it would be an American-owned carrier, the State Department told United officials.

United Airlines Flight 49, scheduled to leave Newark at 9:45 p.m. Tuesday for Los Angeles, was the last of several daily flights from New Jersey to Los Angeles. Only one other carrier had a flight scheduled to depart Newark for Los Angeles that night, officials said.

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Took Precautions

During that day at all three New York-area airports, United had briefed its crew and special precautions had been taken, according to the Assn. of Flight Attendants. Those flights departed as scheduled. However, the attendants on Flight 49 felt that they had not been given adequate information, union officials said. They were told by the captain shortly before boarding that a bomb threat had been received. The cockpit crew had been briefed separately. Apparently because it was so late in the day, the supervisory staff may have overlooked giving the flight attendants the information, union officials speculated.

United officials would not comment Saturday on whether the attendants had been properly briefed. “To say anything would be a breach of our security,” said Rob Doughty, a spokesman for United. He did say that the attendants were aware of the threat.

The seven attendants, who are based in Los Angles and have an average of 10 years of experience, felt “overwhelmed” at the risk, said flight union spokeswoman Cindy Yeast, noting that a similar threat preceded the Dec. 21 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed all 259 aboard.

It was only after the crash that it was disclosed that the U.S. Embassy in Helsinki, Finland, had received a bomb threat Dec. 5 against a Pan Am flight from Frankfurt, where the ill-fated aircraft originated. The United flight attendants chose to walk off the aircraft despite attempts to persuade them to go through with the flight, Yeast said.

The airline paid for hotel rooms for 134 of the 198 passengers and rerouted them on Wednesday morning flights, Doughty said.

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