After the news over the weekend that a Monarch flight back from Spain had kicked off two Asian passengers because some of the other passengers complained that they looked a bit like terrorists. Bear in mind that they had been cleared by airport security, and the complaints were that they looked a bit weird, were wearing heavy coats, and talking in Arabic. At the weekend we had the various passengers who complained, and over the past couple of days we’ve had the two passengers themselves putting their side of the story.
It transpires that the two passengers were a pair of students on a day trip to Malaga, and from the pictures on the TV probably could be described as a bit weird, but no more than many other people look or looked when they were students. With regards to the heavy coats, they had those on because it was chilly in Manchester when they set off. As to the speaking Arabic, they weren’t, it was Urdu.
The current situation is effectively that everybody is pointing towards the pilot as having made the final decision. Interestingly he apparently blamed the Spanish authorities when the two were removed from the plane saying that they wanted to check something, but the Spanish authorities just escorted them off the plane and did nothing else, saying that since they had twice cleared the security checks, and the complete sweep of all the luggage on the plane for explosives had come up clear they were happy. They were only escorting the two off the plane at the insistence of the pilot. Monarch, the airline involved are refusing to apologise.
I find it really reminiscent of the worrying vigilante attacks that occurred a few years ago on innocent people who were labelled as paedophiles, after elements of the media had whipped up fear. In exactly the same way, the current security alerts had whipped up the same level of fear and suspicion in airline travellers. The key problem was the way it was handled, where the people in charge pandered to the paranoia. What should have happened is that the crew should have assured the concerned passengers that the two students had cleared security, and given the complaining passengers the option to fly on a later flight if they were still concerned. What happened effectively set a precedent whereby passengers can set up a kangaroo court to boot off a flight anybody they donÃt like the look of without any actual evidence. Bear in mind when you consider this labelling of weird looking Asians as terrorist, that both Richard Reid the shoe bomber who was overpowered on a plane trying to blow it up was white, and apparently a number of the people involved in the current plot were also Muslim converts. When you look at the pictures of the various men involved in the London bombings last year, they also all looked like regular guys.
Having said that, the two students don’t seem exactly upset about it. Bear in mind that they were flown home the following day anyway. The airline itself isnÃt commenting, but I suspect that without any evidence they would have been treated the same as any other bumped passengers and been put up in an airport hotel overnight too. On top of that, easyJet, a rival airline have offered them free flights to Spain, which of course is making Monarch’s continuing refusal to even issue an apology look worse and worse.