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Plane stopped in SFO after phone threat; two passengers questioned

Passengers booked onto other flights, officials to search plane

Passengers have been removed from a plane that was grounded at San Francisco International Airport this morning because of a phone threat, and two people have been detained for questioning, authorities said.

American Airlines Flight No. 24, destined for John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, was held on the tarmac for several hours,

Transportation Security Administration officials and passengers said. The plane was scheduled to leave at 7:40 a.m.

The flight was carrying 163 passengers and 11 crew members, said American Airlines spokeswoman Mary Frances Fagan.

The passengers have since been removed from the plane and were taken to a terminal for screening, San Francisco police Sgt. Michael Rodriguez said.

Local authorities planned to sweep the aircraft.

"They're going over every inch of that plane," FBI spokesman Joe Schadler said. He said it is not yet clear whether the threat was real.

"Somebody called and advised that there was a threat to this plane," Schadler said. "We have to take that seriously."

Schadler said two people, a man and a woman, were led off the plane separately and questioned, but no one has been arrested.

Passenger Andrew Latham, 27, of England, was sitting two rows ahead of the pair who were removed.

He said San Francisco police boarded the plane and spoke briefly with the man, asking him his name and where his bags were. They then led the man off the plane in handcuffs, Latham said.

Latham and his wife, 25-year-old Emma Bullen, were returning home from their honeymoon, a trip that included stops in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco.

After the threat was received this morning, the TSA requested that the plane be moved to a remote location as a precaution.

"We were miles from everywhere," Latham said.

He said the mood on the plane was tense but calm throughout the wait. One person at a time was allowed to use the restroom, and no one was permitted to access the overhead bins, he said.

Hours later, passengers were removed from the plane six at a time, Latham said. San Francisco police checked each passenger with a wand and inspected the carry-on luggage.

Everyone was then taken back to the terminal on a bus, he said.

The flight was originally scheduled to leave San Francisco at 7:40 a.m. but was delayed for unrelated reasons until 9:15 a.m., passengers said.

Boarding began at about 8:45 a.m.

Passenger Jay Sears, 43, said he received an automated call at about 12:30 a.m. today informing him of the initial delay. He was not expecting what happened after that.

"I should be in New York right now," he said from SFO this afternoon.

Shortly before 2 p.m., Palo Alto resident Anne Anderson was waiting at the American Airlines ticket counter to be reunited with her 20-year-old son Mike, who had been on Flight 24 on his way to football camp at Yale University.

She was shopping in Marin County this morning when she began to receive calls and texts from her son saying he was stuck for an "unknown reason."

One text said the crew was not allowing anyone to stand up.

San Francisco police have released little information on the threat or this morning's events, but assured members of the public at a news conference this afternoon that it is still safe to travel.

Passengers on Flight 24 are being rebooked on other flights.

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