Ever been sick on an airplane? I have, once while flying back from Mexico, and it was awful. But at least the flight crew didn’t have me hauled away in handcuffs at the end of the flight:
A Nigerian man who became ill on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit — the same flight involved in Friday’s terrorism attempt — triggered a security alert at Detroit Metropolitan Airport after the pilots requested emergency assistance upon landing, the Department of Homeland Security announced on Sunday. The department said that the response to Sunday’s incident, which included informing President Obama, was “an abundance of caution.”
Earlier in the afternoon, Delta Airlines, which acquired Northwest last year, said in a statement that the crew had requested police assistance on the ground because a passenger was “verbally disruptive.” The Transportation Safety Administration said in a statement that it had been alerted to a “disruptive passenger on board” Flight 253. The T.S.A. said that the flight landed safely at Detroit International Airport at approximately 12:35 p.m. Eastern “without incident.”
Homeland Security press secretary, Sara Kuban, released a statement, sorting out what had happened on the flight.
“A passenger on today’s Northwest flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit spent an unusually long time in the aircraft lavatory,” she said in the statement.
And then, according to other reports, the passenger became “verbally abusive” (whatever that means) after the flight crew kicked open the bathroom door. For that he was handcuffed and arrested.
In related news, airline stocks are down sharply in the wake of this weekend’s events, and I can understand why. I myself was preparing to make reservations for our annual February trip to take my daughter to visit Grandma in Florida, but have been given serious pause… not due to fears of increased terrorism, but due to fears of the TSA and airline industry response.
There was a time when airline personnel would attempt to deal with sick and/or legitimately disgruntled passengers by offering them an upgrade or a free drink or perhaps just a pillow, a blanket or a smile. Now they increasingly pull the security card at the slightest provocation, as happened to me last year near the end of a particularly torturous travel day.
Yes, there was a time when the airlines treated us like customers, but no more. And that has made an already uncomfortable and stressful experience downright dreadful. Thinking back to that godawful, intestinally challenged flight from Mexico, at least the flight attendants were sympathetic and accommodating. Had I been forced to remain in my seat for the last hour of the flight, as new regulations now require on international flights landing in the U.S., I can assure you I would have literally shit my pants. Explosively.
The fact is, as scary as the Christmas Day incident was, it was unsuccessful, as has been every other attempted airline attack since 9/11. By all means, we should remain vigilant, as the the passengers and crew of Flight 253 clearly were in subduing the alleged terrorist and extinguishing his incendiary device. But let’s not lose perspective.
The goal of the terrorists is, after all, to instill terror. Let’s not do their job for them in the guise of TSA theater.