B747-337M From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR: Posted (14 years 3 weeks 4 days 7 hours ago) and read 8995 times:
Let me preface this trip report with some information about myself. I am an olive complexioned male in mid-20s with a very neutral sounding name. I was worried from the outset that I would be profiled as suspicious, but I never thought it would be this bad.
Saturday morning I received a call bright and early from Delta telling me that my 1pm flight to Atlanta had been cancelled. The only flight operating to Atlanta from the NYC area that day would be the 830pm MD11 from JFK. Since my dad was heading out of JFK on AA as well, I figured it would be a good idea to try for that flight.
We left the hotel in Midtown by cab around 245pm and got to JFK just before 330pm without any hassles. The Air India station manager was waiting for us at Terminal 4 and took us over to AA's Terminal 8. The lines were horrendous and people were experiencing waits in excess of 3 hrs just to GET INTO THE BUILDING. Fortunately, one of the top AA people was waiting for us and escorted us to the front of the check-in counters past the security checkpoints without a hassle. AA had graciously provided my dad a positive space pass on the first flight out to Heathrow so that he could connect to Air India there and get to BOM for a family emergency. He checked in and collected his boarding pass for AA 100 and we then headed out for a cup of coffee before he left.
Once he had passed through security, I headed back to the Delta terminal and attempted to get into the building. Fortunately, I had the foresight to visit their CTO earlier that morning and collect an E-ticket itinerary, so I breezed through the first level of door checks and metal detectors pretty easily. I was heading over to the domestic check-in lines which had about 200 people patiently waiting, when I spotted a Medallion check-in line with only a handful of folks. I turned towards that and immediately felt a hand gripping my arm. A Border Patrol agent had spotted me turn away from the main check-in lines and was eyeing me very suspiciously. "Where do you think you are going?". "To check-in". "The line starts over there". "Yes, but the Medallion line is over there". "What's wrong with this line?". "Nothing, its much longer though, so I'd rather use the other one". "Hey, don't get an attitude with me. Lets see some ID." I presented my passport, E-Ticket receipt and Medallion card for scrutiny. He examined them for a minute and finally said "Ok, but you need to check-in at this line". "No, I'm a Medallion member and I'm entitled to priority check-in unless you can give me a reason why I can't use it". At this time, a Delta redcoat standing nearby came over and examined my documents. He pointedly looked at the Border Patrol agent and told me to go ahead and use the Medallion line. The Border Patrol agent just shrugged and began looking for someone else else to pick on.
Check-in was smooth enough and I was given an upgraded seat 12A in BizElite despite being on a U fare. I wasn't in the mood to argue, so I just thanked the agent and walked towards the gate. All payphones in the airport had been turned off for some reason and it was impossible to communicate with the outside world. Even the Crown Room Clubs were closed. Ah well, I'll survive. I headed off to the bar for a beer, but found it packed. I finally found myself some counter space and sipped on a Sam Adams while chatting with a guy from Birmingham who was trying to head out via Paris.
Headed out to my gate around 7pm for the 830pm departure. As I walked down the concourse, I was stopped by a Delta employee who asked to see my ticket and ID. I presented those for his perusal and was quickly approved with a "Thank you for choosing Delta". That's class. Some people have it, and some people don't.
As we waited in the gate area, I began chatting with some Delta pilots who were also trying to get down to Atlanta. As we chatted, I saw a couple of Border Patrol Agents and PANYNJ police walk up to the gate accompanied by a K9 Unit. They spoke among themselves for a while and then began to approach me. Suddenly one of them began shouting "Everyone out of the gate area, NOW!". I picked up my bag and began to walk away, but two of them grabbed me by each arm and said "Not you. Everyone else." I was made to remove my jacket and place it on the floor and then one them kicked over my carry-on bag and made the dog sniff it over. "What the hell is going on? What did I do?". "Don't give me an attitude buddy, or else you will regret it?". "Why am I being singled out for this?". "Because someone said you were a suspicious person". "Oh, ok. Can you say profiling?". "Hey hey, I won't say this again. Watch your mouth. Lets see some ID". I provided the required documentation. "Where are you going to today?". "Atlanta". "Why Atlanta?". "Thats where I live". "So why are you going there?". "Because I want to go home." This roundabout questioning continued for a minute or two while the dog sniffed all over my jacket and bag.
Eventually, even the dog got bored of this and began wandering away, so the other passengers were allowed back into the gate area, taking care to keep away from the corner I was being questioned in. My bag still lay on its side in the middle of the floor, but when I tried to go get it, I was told to "Leave it there for now". By now I was furious and demanded to know what exactly I was doing that made so suspicious "apart from existing with my skin color?". "Well, one of the Delta employees saw you on camera and called you in". "Saw me doing what? Waiting for a flight?". "Some people just aren't comfortable with that". "With me waiting for a flight?". "Yeah, I guess not". "So what do you want me to do to stop being suspicious?". "Well, we could put you in handcuffs for a while. That might give them some peace of mind". "WHAT? Do you have probable cause for this?". "I don't need probable cause". "Ok, do you have reasonable suspicion then?". "You are acting all nervous now, thats suspicious in my book". Enough was enough, and I asked him if I was free to go. He shrugged and said "sure, have a nice flight".
Of course, by now everyone was keeping well away from me and whispering to each other behind my back. So much for innocent until presumed guilty. The agents made an announcement that we were one pilot short and that the pilot would be coming in from Atlanta on a flight arriving at 1032pm, so our departure was now pushed back to 1130pm. Since everyone else was shunning me, I wandered back over to the Delta pilots and chatted with them on various issues for the next hour or so. Finally, the Atlanta flight arrived and the pilots emerged. Now it turned out that our aircraft had been fueled to fly to Tokyo on Tuesday morning, so it was too heavy for a short hop down to ATL and the Port Authority was not giving them permission to de-fuel the plane. Fortunately, the aircraft that just came up from ATL was within acceptable weights. So we trooped over to that gate and set up camp again. A few Border Patrol and Customs agents came over and chatted with us as we waited.
Finally, around 1130pm, boarding began on the MD11. I decided to wait till then end of the boarding process before heading on board. As I was walking down the jetway, I saw Mike, one of the Customs agents we had been talking to, stopping *random* passengers for ID checks. I didn't wait to be stopped but instead just walked right up to him and handed it over. He grinned and said "I'm sorry its gotta be this way. Have a good flight." As I continued down the jetway, an elderly black gentleman tapped me on the shoulder and said, "God bless you son, but for the first time that I can remember, the black people are not a suspect". I was strangely touched by what he said.
As I walked to my seat 12A, there was an off-duty FA seated in 12B. When I put my stuff into 12A, she abrupbtly stood up and took a seat over on the other side of the cabin. Great. Welcome aboard to you too. I looked out of the window across a deserted tarmac and thought back to the last time I had boarded a plane at 840am on Tuesday at Newark. I had looked out my window at that time too and seen two towers standing down by Battery Park. There was no pre-takeoff drink service and we sat at the gate for another hour before we were cleared to push back. There were 41 people in Business Elite today, of which I was the only revenue passenger. There were also 30 off-duty/deadheading flight attendants, 8 pilots and 2 retirees.
We taxied out slowly as I marvelled at how absolutely deserted JFK was. The only other surface traffic was the Cathay Pacific 744 heading for Vancouver and Hong Kong, which took off right ahead of us. We rolled onto the runway and the captain gave us full throttle before releasing the brakes. The PW4000 engines roared as we hurtled down the runway. Then we climbed out, and the city came into view, with a million lights shining brightly. But down at the southern end of Manhattan, there was a different kind of light and a big huge void where two of the brightest lights had once shone.
At that moment, I began to cry. I'm sure many others on board cried too. We cried not out of sadness or out of joy, but we just cried to let it all out. We cried for the city that we remembered before Tuesday and we cried for the city that we now knew. We cried for the loss of innocence that the country had suffered. We cried for the victims and the families and the rescue workers working thousands of feet below us. But most of all we cried because we were back in the air and no matter how hard they knocked us down, we were back up again.
We flew south on a cloudless night with a carpet of lights twinkling below us. As we flew over Virginia, an F16 took position off our left wing for a minute and escorted us in silence. I smiled for the first time since Tuesday. I sipped on a Vodka and watched as Richmond became Raleigh became Charlotte became Atlanta and finally we touched down just before 3am. Everyone applauded, and my smile grew wider. I walked throught the deserted airport to the cab stand in silence. My cab driver was a muslim from Ghana who got us quickly on the road and then asked "So where were you stuck?". "New York", I replied. A moment of silence, followed by "God bless you brother. Welcome home".
AS737900 From United States of America, joined Oct 2000, 343 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (14 years 3 weeks 4 days 6 hours ago) and read 7690 times:
Excellent report... I can not wait for the next time I fly. But a horrible sounding experience. I hope you wrote down everybody's name who treated you like dirt and you will write to whatever organization they were working for. Sure they were doing their job to an extent but it sounds like harassment over skin colour to me. I wouldn't have stood for it... I felt like punching my computer's screen reading your story.
Stretch 8 From United States of America, joined May 1999, 2568 posts, RR: 15
Reply 4, posted (14 years 3 weeks 4 days ago) and read 7662 times:
Your moniker, "747-337M" was the same one used to start a thread in the Civil Aviation area, about FAA targeting foreign carriers. I challenged you there, and do so here. Are you a teenager, or in your twenties? Were you really scheduled to fly on the 9/11-01 UA EWR-SFO flight? You claimed to have helped with triage and the FDNY at the WTC site. You also had another version of your member identification that listed your name as Sean. You are lying, young man. Stop it .
Maggs swings, it's a drive deep to left! The Tigers are going to the World Series!!!
Lufthansa747 From Philippines, joined May 1999, 3201 posts, RR: 32
Reply 5, posted (14 years 3 weeks 3 days 20 hours ago) and read 7524 times:
Please stop it, Stretch 8. Sean is ex. B747-437B, an experienced and respected Airliners.net member. He probably just chose a wrong age as he might have been a little shocked about something. We have much more important things to worry about than his Wrong age!
I feel very sorry for how you were treated on your flight. That is terrible. I would have shouted something stupid at the idiots. Good for you that you stayed calm. Excellent trip report by the way
OH-LGA From Denmark, joined Oct 1999, 1436 posts, RR: 18
Reply 6, posted (14 years 3 weeks 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 7463 times:
Stretch 8: I can vouch for the authenticity of B747-337M. He is in his early twenties, extremely knowledgeable and an extremely well-respected member of airliners.net. He used to be known as B747-437B, and his name is Sean.
While scheduled to fly a completely different routing, starting in EWR and eventually ending up in SFO, one of his segments was downgraded in equipment, and as an elite member, was offered to be rebooked on a United Airlines non-stop service EWR-SFO, known that day at Flight 93 (now known as Flight 81).
Be careful who you accuse, because in this case you are dead wrong, and I believe an apology should be in order.
I'm extremely saddened to hear the extreme profiling that you were subject to in your travels that day. Unfortunately it will probably continue for some time, as some people just don't know how to react, and react in the wrong ways. I am amazed at your levelheadedness and calm demeanor, even though they caused you extreme humiliation. As for that F/A, good heavens, I'd write her up! That is extremely rude. And for those federal agents, unfortunately it seems like they've overstepped their authority.
If I had just one wish, it'd be that there wouldn't be this sort of backlash towards an ethnic group just because of what several extremists did.
Best of luck to you Sean.
Head in the clouds... yet feet planted firmly on the ground.
B747-337M From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 9, posted (14 years 3 weeks 2 days 18 hours ago) and read 7329 times:
Sean, please forgive me for my rant herein and other attacks. I was wrong. I hope your future travels are less eventful than the one described in this thread.
I appreciate your apology and accept it warmly. This is a tragedy for EVERYONE and I strongly support reconciling differences and providing a united front against the bad stuff that is happening in our beloved industry.
PSU_DTW_SCE From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 10, posted (14 years 3 weeks 2 days 16 hours ago) and read 7351 times:
Geesh. I cannot believe what happened to you. Its horrible that this event has caused massive forms of racism to surface.
My buddy back home just told me about an incident back in Detroit on NW last Friday. It was all over the radio and TV.
A flight from DTW-EWR was supposed to leave around 9pm. The plane sat there at the gate with the door still open for another half hour before the pilot got on and said that EWR was closed again, and then about 30 police cars with lights going surrounded the plane. After another half hour of nervous looks from passengers and crew, the police turned off their lights and backed up some from the plane. Then about 10 officers boarded the plane and went up to 4 men and told them to not make a scene and get up and leave the aircraft. One man was black, the other Puerto Rican, another Indian, and the last one Columbian. None of them were siting near each other and one had even fallen asleep prior to departure.
While passengers were boarding the aircraft one passenger (not one of the ones taken off) got into a verbal argument with the pilot, but then went and sat down in First Class. After the men had been taken off, a very nervous pilot got on the intercom and said, "We're terribly sorry about the incident. Newark wasn't actually closed, that was just a stall tactic. Some of our passengers felt uncomfortable about some of our other passengers on board this evening."
Immediately after this, a well-known radio personality (who told this story on the air) got up along with most of the plane and headed for the exits. The people refused to fly on a plane where racial profiling exists and where passengers can call the shots, and because of the pilots emotional state.
After getting off the aircraft, the radio-personality met up with the Puerto-Rican man in the terminal. He said the police were only minimally concerned with him, but all his luggage was still on the plane for EWR. He had just flown in from Paris on his way to Newark where he lost 3 of his closed friends in the WTC.
This is absurd!!!! We need to stop this sort of racism! B747-337M, you aren't alone out there. You people have my support against both racism and terrorism.
Adam84 From United States of America, joined Jul 1999, 1400 posts, RR: 2
Reply 13, posted (14 years 3 weeks 10 hours ago) and read 7070 times:
See now what they did to you in the airport just pisses me off.
Can we say ignorance. Do these @ssholes think everyone with darker skin must be a terrorist.
We got a memo at work that all our customers must be treated with the same respect no matter where they sound like they are from. Not to mention the fact that it is a terminable offense if you treat someone differently because of their race.
I was quite shocked because I never even thought that this was an issue.
Ironminds From Australia, joined Apr 2001, 556 posts, RR: 3
Reply 14, posted (14 years 3 weeks 10 hours ago) and read 7054 times:
Well, OK, this was a little over the top the way you were treated. However, let's get real: If the so-called "people" who did this were treated a little differently because of how they looked, they may not have been able to bring down the world trade center with box cutters. Everyone think a little before you start crying 'racism' -- that's just the hook the appeasers will try to use to de-legitimize our efforts in the war against anti-Western, anti-freedom Islamic fanatics.
Sotomayor From United States of America, joined Jun 2005, 0 posts, RR: 0
Reply 15, posted (14 years 3 weeks 10 hours ago) and read 7051 times:
They will use profiling (targeting someone just because of their race) because they can't screen everyone thoroughly at the security points. But you can't depend on profiling alone to be safe. There are a lot of "ifs" you can come up that would have prevented the atrocities last week.
PanAm747 From United States of America, joined Feb 2004, 4242 posts, RR: 8
Reply 16, posted (14 years 3 weeks 7 hours ago) and read 7004 times:
>> let's get real: If the so-called "people" who did this were treated a little differently because of how they looked, they may not have been able to bring down the world trade center with box cutters.<<
Yeah, and if we treated all white males like this, then Tim McVeigh would have never blown up the Murrah Federal building.
You can't discriminate the whole world.
Pan Am:The World's Most Experienced Airline - P(oor) S(ailor's) A(irline): San Diego's Hometown Airline-Catch Our Smile!
Adam84 From United States of America, joined Jul 1999, 1400 posts, RR: 2
Reply 17, posted (14 years 3 weeks 2 hours ago) and read 6975 times:
PanAm747: Exactly my thought.
Why should we profile anyone with darker skin?
If thats the case then we should discriminate against any 25-30 year old guy, who is buying fertilizer and is obviously from the midwest because he says "pop" instead of "soda". That would be grounds for harrassment because he was acting suspicious.
If that sounds stupid to you, thats exactly how I look at what happened to B747-337M.
Standby87 From Switzerland, joined Jul 2001, 536 posts, RR: 3
Reply 18, posted (14 years 3 weeks 1 hour ago) and read 6972 times:
B747-337M - my sympathies. A very well-written report - I had a bad time once in LAX stepping off an Avianca flight that had originated in Cali (it didn't help that for some reason I had chosen to dress entirely in black with shades on), but what you went through was much worse. Get people's names and ask for their IDs, that's my only advice in cases like this.
My feelings of sympathy and grief for what happened to the WTC are turning to anger at power-crazy jobsworths like the kind you encountered who are helping the industry go down the pan.
But that's the case after a "normal" bereavement: you go through a whole range of emotions.
Meanwhile, must go and check our company's share price - wonder if it's hit zero yet? Cheers.
Delta717 From United States of America, joined Mar 2000, 457 posts, RR: 1
Reply 20, posted (14 years 2 weeks 6 days 14 hours ago) and read 6865 times:
B747-337M-that was one of the best reports I have EVER read. I would've been sobbing flying over the WTC site. I can't believe it's gone. I can't believe that anyone could be sooo discriminative. I compliment you on your bravery and that you kept yourself together while having a bad time at JFK.
DeltaOwnsAll From United States of America, joined Jul 2001, 1173 posts, RR: 1
Reply 21, posted (14 years 2 weeks 5 days 18 hours ago) and read 6798 times:
B747-337M- Great report....probably the best I have ever read. I feel so mad/bad about the descriminative actions taken against you...as they obviously had no credibility. Thanks for the report...good luck...and God Bless America.
American_4275 From United States of America, joined Aug 1999, 1076 posts, RR: 0
Reply 23, posted (14 years 2 weeks 4 days 16 hours ago) and read 6734 times:
That was a phenomenal report. I feel for you. I am also Middle Eastern and don't wish for that kind of thing to happen to me at airports, but feel that it will be inevitable for my family and I. The fact that nobody in my family would hurt a fly isn't even a consideration. This country is about freedom and the right to practice whatever religion you please without being discriminated. Frankly, i'm disappointed.