I have not had the pleasure of visiting Rio de Janeiro yet, but it seems they take airport security even more seriously than the TSA:
SAO PAULO – A United Airlines pilot was briefly detained at the international airport in Rio de Janeiro after lowering his pants during a security screening, police said Saturday.
Pilot Michael D. Slynn, 49, was asked to remove his belt and shoes as part of a routine security screening Friday afternoon. In response, Slynn laughed at security guards and lowered his pants to his ankles…
Slynn was released after signing a document promising to appear before a judge during his next trip to Brazil. Sarah Massier, UA’s spokesperson, said the airline is looking into the matter.
According to this story (in Portuguese), the pilot refused to remove his belt and shoes, claiming pilot immunity, and verbally attacked the airport guards. In Brazil, it is against the law to show disrespect for a law enforcement officer. He was arrested immediately, but freed after United intervened and promised to bring him back to Brazil to appear in court. UA intervened because departure time was approaching, 300 passengers were waiting, and there was no extra pilot available.
It was not the first time an American pilot has gotten into trouble for allegedly responding inappropriately to Brazil’s airport security measures.
In 2004, American Airlines pilot Dale Robin Hersh was fined $13,000 for allegedly giving the finger as he was being photographed at Sao Paulo’s Guarulhos International Airport. The photograph was among entry requirements for U.S. citizens implemented by Brazil at the time in response to similar rules in the United States.
Police accused Hersh of showing contempt for authorities and took him to a federal courthouse…
I’m not sure where I come down on this story. I can understand that the UA (and AA) incident plays into the "Ugly American" cliché and the pilot should have been more respectful to the screener. The pilot deserves to be criticized for his lack of tact. At the same time, the pilot poked fun at a misguided policy, making a cheeky political statement. It is unfortunate that such statements are not protected speech in Brazil. Perhaps if we used a little rationality in our airport screening paradigm, this incident would never have arose in the first place.