Neerja Bhanot AC (7 September 1963 – 5 September 1986) was a flight attendant for Pan Am, based in Mumbai, India, who was murdered while saving passengers from terrorists on board the hijacked Pan Am Flight 73 on 5 September 1986. Posthumously, she became the youngest recipient of India's highest civilian award for bravery, the Ashok Chakra.
Neerja Bhanot was born in a Brahmin family in Chandigarh, the daughter of Rama Bhanot and Harish Bhanot, a Mumbai-based journalist. She was an alumna of Sacred Heart Senior Secondary School, Chandigarh, Bombay Scottish School and St. Xavier's College, Mumbai.
Bhanot had an arranged marriage in March 1985 and joined her husband in the Gulf. However, the marriage turned sour following dowry pressure and she returned to her parents' home in Mumbai within two months. She then applied for a flight attendant job with Pan Am, and upon selection, went to Miami for training as a flight attendant but returned as purser.
The hijackers, said to be from the Abu Nidal Organisation, were captured by Pakistan, tried, convicted and sentenced to death in 1988. Their sentences were later commuted to life in prison.
In 2001, Zayd Hassan Abd Al-Latif Masud Al Safarini, one of the hijackers who shot the passengers, was captured by the FBI in Bangkok after being released by Pakistan. He is currently serving 160-year prison term in Colorado. Four others were freed from Pakistan's Adyala Jail in January 2008. The FBI announced a $5 million bounty on their heads. In January 2010, Pakistani intelligence officials announced that a drone attack in the North Waziristan tribal region had killed one of the released hijackers, Jamal Saeed Abdul Rahim. His death was never confirmed and he remains on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists and Rewards for Justice lists.