Have you heard of the flying Imams? No, they’re not a circus act (although some think they should be). Often humorously referred to as the “Sheiks on a plane,” six Muslim imams from US Airways Flight 300, boarded a plane in
- Rather than sitting in their assigned seats, the Muslim Imams fanned out around the cabin, sitting in pairs close to the front, middle and rear of the plane.
- A passenger who spoke Arabic reported that the two imams sitting in the back of the plane mentioned Osama bin Laden and they spoke of anti-American propaganda.
- Two of them requested seatbelt extensions (a strap used to lengthen the seatbelt for larger passengers, with a metal buckle). Being of very “slight” build, none of them really needed the extensions, and they placed them on the floor at their feet after they were given the straps. None of them attached them to their belts, as instructed.
- Three of them were traveling with no checked baggage and one-way tickets.
After several passengers complained of the suspicious behavior, the Imams were escorted off of the plane and were detained for questioning. What followed was an interesting soap opera of events that would last for three years. A legal saga between 6 Muslim Imams who believe they were discriminated against and mistreated, and an airline who desperately wanted to maintain their credibility with a flying public who, post 9/11, is understandably nervous about flying with radical religious extremists.
This all happened three years ago. Why am I bringing it up today? Because yesterday, U.S. Airways agreed to a monetary settlement with the Imams (who sued U.S. Airways for the way they were treated) out of court. This sends a horrible message to the rest of the traveling world. You can’t walk 50 feet through an airport in this country without seeing the sign, “Please report any suspicious behavior.” Heck, I see that sign about 1.25 miles OUTSIDE of the airport on my way to a flight!
Why? Now I ask myself, why? Why should I report the activity at all? The lesson I recently learned is, “The perpetrators aren’t punished, in fact they actually get PAID for their suspicious activity so why should I report them?” I’ll tell you why you should continue to report them, “people,” that’s why. Regardless of what the airline and it’s lawyers decided to do in the longer term, a group of quick thinking flight attendants ushered the suspicious Imams off of the plane for the immediate short term. Common sense prevailed and I have great faith that it would prevail again. A better question would be, “How did 6 Muslim extremists make it past the TSA and their completely useless security gates?” Wait, I think I answered my own question, there.
I implore you, the only real “police” that will prevail in the next attempt by a terrorist to attack this country, is us; the good citizenry of the U.S.A. Don’t go “overboard,” but if you see suspicious activity, report it. Report it until somebody does something about it! God forbid, but if your reports are ignored, you still have the power to walk off of the plane or out of the airport. The “system” may be flawed, the people around you usually prevail with common sense.
EXTRA: If you have questions for Ken regarding business travel, hotels, airplanes, etc, please send an email! Your questions will be recorded and Ken will answer the best ones in his Ask the Expert podcast show.