Readers of my blog know that I have very little tolerance for irrationality. Such irrationality is often manifested in the actions of the TSA, but sometimes passengers or flight crews are to blame, like when a flight attendant overreacts to a passenger who "appears" suspicious.
Other times, however, I cannot blame FAs and passengers for "freaking out."
Take Tuesday for instance, when a United flight from Portland to Washington Dulles diverted to Chicago after three passengers continued to act very strangely. According to passengers onboard the flight, one man went to the back of the plane and sat down on the floor–not before having a verbal altercation with one of the FAs in the rear galley. Another man from the same group was pacing up and down the aisle of the plane with a backpack on. All three men were passing paper notes back and forth to each other.
I cannot blame UA for diverting the flight. Politically correct UA says the diversion occurred because the passengers failed to follow crew member instructions, which without doubt is partially true, but pacing up and down the aisle with a backpack on midflight would certainly raise my suspicion. And it didn’t help that the three men appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent in a country that tends to link terrorism exclusively to the Arab world.
Recently, there were two other flight diversions after Orthodox Jewish passengers strapped on tefillin, the prayer garment made from a pair of small leather boxes containing scripture and connected by leather straps, after takeoff. I have traveled to Israel and have Jewish friends so I know what a tefillin is, but I cannot blame the flight crews and passengers for their worry after observing passengers strap black boxes around their heads 30,000 feet in the air.
The two situations described above are quite different–a religious ritual cannot be compared to disobeying crewmember instructions–yet are similar in the following way: I think the reaction that occurred was reasonable. I could launch into a extended discussion about religious liberty and tolerance, but I only offer this advice to all airline passengers: if you’re doing something that is going to raise the attention of passengers around you in a negative way, do your best to hold off until landing.
Is that too much to request?