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In the movie The Net a flight appears as "hijacked" on a departure/arrival screen. Would these screens really show an airliner as hijacked when they are, and did this ever happen?

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  • $\begingroup$ In the movie it's the LAX (Los Angeles) airport if we wanna determine it in its specific case. $\endgroup$ – Giovanni May 15 at 6:55
  • $\begingroup$ I seriously doubt they would show that, but questions about departure screens in airport terminal buildings are off-topic here anyway. $\endgroup$ – Bianfable May 15 at 7:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Bianfable I wouldn't say that. It belongs to airport operations so it fits both aviation and travel. $\endgroup$ – Giovanni May 15 at 7:51
  • $\begingroup$ Questions about whether something is possible or not are rarely useful, unless there is a plausible rationale given for why it might not be possible, and addressing that rationale can provide some meaningful insight. There is no reason to believe that computer display couldn't be programmed to say any words you want it to say, therefore I'm voting to close and DVing. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hall May 15 at 15:42
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    $\begingroup$ In the airport, I would guess (without any knowledge) "SEE AGENT" would come up before "Hijacked". $\endgroup$ – gwally May 15 at 18:55
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I don't have any experience with the software used (at LAX or anywhere else) but here are my thoughts.

In theory anything can be shown if the display is connected to a general-purpose computer, but I doubt the software displaying flights and times has "hijacked" as a selectable status, or that it has a free-text entry option.

The hack would, in all likelihood, have to be an edit to the compiled binary/executable of the program that is shown on the screen, similar to the story about the "Thank you for playing Wing Commander" error message. This could change all instances of "Delayed" to show "Hijacked" instead (though there are more letters in "Hijacked" so this may not even be possible). The string "Delayed" could also be stored outside the binary in a manner similar to the .lproj/.strings system Apple uses, which would make editing it easier. But in both cases the change would be seen for all delayed flights rather than just one.

Or it might be that the flight information is stored in a database separately before being passed to the binary which displays it on the screen; if "flight status" is stored as a plaintext string instead of a numeric code (to be decoded within the binary) it would be very possible to change the status for one flight in particular to be anything you want. Personally I doubt this is the case because the system needs to get information automatically from some central location and is continually updated by feeds from the airlines. But the hackers may have disabled automatic updates as well.

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    $\begingroup$ Yes, the hackers (Pretoreans) were really powerful in the film. The screen changed permanently, it was just to cause chaos. I'm sure multiple planes were labeled "hijacked" on the chaotically changing screen. $\endgroup$ – Giovanni May 15 at 14:42
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Anything can be shown on a digital screen, but there is no way any airport would do that. What would be the purpose?

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    $\begingroup$ To tell passengers the truth. But in the movie, it was actually a hack on the airport computers. $\endgroup$ – Giovanni May 15 at 7:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Giovanni imagine you've gone to the airport to pick up your loved one and check their flight status and see that... it's a lot more humane to tell you the bad news in person $\endgroup$ – Ben May 15 at 22:42

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