Neerja Bhanot-The Heroine of the hijack

Neerja Bhanot is better known as “The Heroine of  the Hijack“, internationally owing to her courage and presence of mind she showed during the hijacking of Pam Am 73 flight, where she was on duty on the board as Senior Purser and died while saving passengers.


We are really very small in front of her sacrifice and there is not way we can bring her back to this world, but we can salute her for the bravery she showed that saved lives of many.


Neerja Bhanot was born on 7 September-1963 in a brahmin family in Chandigarh to the parents, Rama Bhanot and Harish Bhanot. She started career as a journalist in Mumbai and was an alumni of Sacred Heart Senior Secondary School, Chandigarh.

Neerja married with in March 1985 when she was only 21 years old and went to Gulf with her husband after marriage. The marriage could not proved to be blissful as her husband started demanding for dowry. She later returned to India within two months as started getting more tortured by her husband for dowry.

It seems the courage and fighting against injustice were the inborn traits in Neerja and she started showing the signs since a long back, that is why she fought against dowry demands from her husband and came out of her troubled marriage, but destiny had written something else for her.

She was working as a Journalist before marriage but applied for a flight attendant job with Pam Am after returning to India and got selected also in the test. She was sent to Miami for further training as a flight attendant. This is another thing that though she went for flight attendant training but returned as a purser.


Bhanot joined Pam Am after training as Purser and was on duty on board the Pam Am flight 73 on 5 September 1986, when four heavily armed terrorists made entry in the plane while the plane was landing at Karachi Airport around 5am in the morning. The plane had departed from Mumbai and its final destination was New York City.

Bhanot, who had received training of handling a situation of plane hijacking, signaled the cockpit crew regarding the terrorists emergence in the plane. As a result, the three of the four cockpit members fled from the plane and this is when she then took the charge.

The terrorists were backed by Libya and belonged to group, Abu Nidal Organization. They instructed Bhanot to collect the passport of all passengers to distinguish Americans. But showing the presence of mind, she along with other attendents hid 41 passports of American passengers.

The terrorists hijacked the plane for 17 hours and after that they started firing and set off explosives in the plane. Bhanot opened the emergency door and let as many passengers as could, leave and escape. She did not jump or escaped and in-fact died of shielding three children in the gun fire from terrorists end.


Neerja Bhanot was awarded with Ashok Chakra Award on account of showing the bravery and became the youngest recipient of the Award. The bravery of Neerja was not only recognized in India, but on International level also, so was given the title of “The Heroine of the hijack”,  internationally. Below is the list of awards, Neerja received  after her death:

  1. Ashoka Chakra Award, India
  2. Flight Safety Foundation Heroism Award, U.S.A.
  3. Tamgha-e-Insaaniyat (Awarded for showing incredibly human kindness), Pakistan
  4. Justice for Crimes Award, United States Attorney’s office for the District of Columbia
    Special Courage award, US Govt.
  5. Indian Civil Aviation Ministry’s Award

Such bravery is rarely shown in today’s world when one has no time for others. We salute her for her brave and great heart!!

Read Also: Sonam Kapoor to play Neerja Bhanot in a movie “Neerja

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