Man jailed for hoax bomb call so he could catch UK flight to Los Angeles

LONDON (Reuters) - A French man who was running late for his flight from London to Los Angeles tried to delay it by calling police to say there was a bomb on board.

Librarian Jacob Meir Abdellak, who lives in east London, made the call eight minutes before his 5.47 a.m. Norwegian Air flight from Gatwick Airport was due to leave on May 11 because he was significantly late and airline staff had refused to allow him on board, a court heard.

His hoax meant passengers had to be re-screened and take-off was delayed by 90 minutes. An investigation by Gatwick revealed that the hoax call had been made using the same number linked to his booking.

When Abdellak returned to the airport to take another flight to the United States on May 22, he was arrested.

He initially claimed he had lost his phone's SIM card but on Tuesday pleaded guilty at Lewes Crown Court to communicating false information regarding a noxious substance likely to create serious risk to human health. He was sentenced to 10 months in prison.

"This was a quite ridiculous decision made by Abdellak, who fabricated an extremely serious allegation purely for his own benefit," said Gatwick Police Chief Inspector Marc Clothier on Thursday.

"He was running late for his flight and thought it would be a good idea to call in a hoax bomb, however this turned out to be the worst decision he could have made."

RELATED: How to survive a plane crash, according to science

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How to survive a plane crash, according to science
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How to survive a plane crash, according to science

Carry-on bag

The safest thing to do with your carry-on … Is leave it on the plane. Flight crews ask you to keep your luggage clear of the aisles for a reason; in the event of an evacuation, you don’t want it blocking an escape route. With as little as 90 seconds to evacuate a burning place, the precious time spent reaching for luggage could be a life and death decision for someone. Learn about the 22 things flight attendants won’t tell you.

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Your seat

The safest place to sit on the plane … is behind the wings. A Popular Mechanics study of 20 commercial jet crashes with both fatalities and survivors found that passengers seated in the rear cabin (behind the wings) had a 69 percent chance of survival, compared with just 49 percent for those in first class. But you don’t have to sacrifice leg room for safety’s sake: exit rows are perhaps the safest place to sit on the whole plane. In the event of an evacuation, the closer you are to an exit, the higher the chance you’ll escape unscathed. Here’s how to pick the best seat on a plane for every need.

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How to sit

The safest way to sit during a crash … Is to brace yourself (literally). In a 2015 crash simulation, Boeing found that passengers who both wore their seat belts and assumed a brace position (feet flat, head cradled against their knees or the seat in front of them if possible) were likeliest to survive a crash. Seat-belted fliers who did not brace suffered serious head injuries, and those with no seat belts or bracing died on impact. Just don’t fall for these 20 air travel myths you need to stop believing.

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During a crash

The first thing you should do in a crash … is put on the oxygen mask the minute it drops. During a loss of cabin pressure, the fall in oxygen can knock you unconscious in as little as 20 seconds. Listen to your flight attendants: Always secure your oxygen mask before helping others. You can’t help if you can’t breathe. Find out about the little-known airplane feature that could save your life.

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What to wear

The safest way to dress … is un-flammably. The National Transportation Safety Board tells us that 68 percent of plane crash fatalities occur in post-crash fires, not in the initial impact. Fortunately, here’s a scenario you can plan for days in advance while you pack your suitcase: On the day you’re flying, avoid wearing flammable synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon. Instead, opt for natural materials like cotton or wool (good news if you’re a sweatpants-at-the-airport kind of person). It’s also a good idea to favor long pants (like jeans) and a long-sleeved shirt for extra protection from flames and sharp objects. Don’t miss these other 16 mistakes you need to stop making before your next flight.

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What to wear on your feet

The best shoes to wear … never leave your feet. Hassle-free flip-flops might seem like a good idea for braving airport security, but in the chaos of a crash or evacuation, they’ll only slow you down. Likewise, high heels can lead to stumbling, and may even be sharp enough to pop the inflatable exit slide. Wear a pair of comfy flats or sneakers, and keep them on your feet through the whole flight. Not only can loose shoes get in other passengers’ way and hinder your own mobility during an evacuation, but also remember that nobody wants to smell your stinky feet. And statistically, that is a far greater threat to air travel than any crash. Learn 18 more things you should never do on an airplane.

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(Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison)

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