A Nampa man has been arrested for telling an airline ticket agent at Boise Municipal Airport that he was putting a bomb on board a Southwest Airlines flight.
Wenceslao Gonzalez, 37, was being held Friday in the Ada County Jail on a charge of falsely reporting explosives. Prosecutors allege Gonzalez told an airline employee on Aug. 1 that there was a bomb in a package he was placing on the airplane.
Airlines have been asking passengers questions about their luggage - such as whether they packed it themselves - as part of heightened security measures at U.S. airports. Some of those were put in place following the crash of Trans World Airlines Flight 800 on July 17.
Gonzalez allegedly told the airline agent that a piece of his luggage contained a bomb. Airport police were contacted, but he was not arrested at the time. Prosecutors decided to charge him after reviewing the police account of the incident.
He was arrested Wednesday.
“It is a felony; it needs to be enforced, especially in these times,” Deputy Prosecutor Connie Vietz said. “Ultimately it’s not funny, it just isn’t.”
Airport signs warn travelers not to joke about bombs, and Southwest Airlines spokeswoman Beth Harbin said the airline takes such remarks seriously.
“It might seem silly to the average person, but unfortunately in the world we live in, those possibilities are all too real,” Harbin said. “It’s so serious that if we fail to ask those questions, that’s an FAA penalty for us.”
Federal Aviation Administration regulations govern the security procedures airlines and airports must use.
Gonzalez initially was arrested and held on $100,000 bond, but his bond was reduced to $1,000 on Friday. It is a felony in Idaho to falsely report a bomb to an airline employee. The maximum penalty is five years in prison.
Vietz said Gonzalez’s remarks caused disruption at the airport because security personnel had to conduct a search to make sure there was no bomb.