No Excuse Security

I'll be the first to admit I don't like inconveniences when it comes to flying to an appointment or meeting. I want to get on the aircraft, sit and fly. And I'll be the first to admit that security checks are a hassle.

Likewise, I'm happy security is the first stop before entering the gate area of an airport. The fact is security is a matter of importance to all passengers, regardless of political correctness, race, creed, color or religion. Airport and aircraft security is not a misunderstanding, and it's not something to take lightly.

Apparently, AirTran officials feel the same about aircraft and passenger security as they ordered nine Muslim passengers off a flight from Reagan National Airport to Orlando on New Year's Day. To arbitrarily boot anyone from a flight is wrong, but in this case two other passengers overheard what they thought was a suspicious remark about aircraft safety or security.

This is a problem, even though eight of the nine in the party were U.S.-born citizens. FBI officials said the incident was a misunderstanding, but AirTran refused to rebook the passengers. The passengers received a refund and had to pay for seats on another carrier, with help from the FBI.

The comment made, according to news reports, was that the brother of Kashif Irfan, one of the removed passengers, was discussing the safest place to sit on an airplane. Irfan also said his brother and his wife were discussing some aspect of airport security.

Irfan said he and his traveling party were profiled because of their appearance. All are of South Asian descent, with the men wearing beards and the women dressed in traditional Muslim headscarves.

AirTran officials said the incident was a misunderstanding, but also defended the company's handling of the passengers, saying they were following federal rules. They also denied any wrongdoing.

In the final analysis, the Muslim party of nine got on the aircraft and made comments they shouldn't have made. Other people heard them and were nervous, possibly misconstruing what was said altogether.

The pilot has the final decision regarding who will fly on their aircraft. In this case, the pilot made the decision to empty the plane, rescreen all passengers and not allow the party to rejoin the flight.

I believe the pilot and AirTran officials made the right choice based on comments offered by the group. And I have 19 reasons why they made the right decision, all based on the comments and actions of a select few on Sept. 11, 2001.

About the Author

Ralph C. Jensen is editor-in-chief of Security Today magazine.

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