AirTrans Flight 297 departing from Atlanta enroute to Houston had to abort departure because a non-English-speaker refused to get turn-off his cell phone. Update: I have an email believed to be from an English-speaker on this flight. I cannot verify his statements, so will not print it at this time, but after he left the flight, he says he was asked by authorities to make a statement. His story of what happened, what was said and the way the non-English-speakers worked together to create havoc and terror on the flight, needs to be told, if it is true. According to this email, the flight crew eventually refused to continue on with the trip. Check back, we’ll see what happens.
12-02-09: A note to readers, there is almost no reporting of this incident. I have been checking almost hourly for a couple of days now – and other than the unconfirmed email mentioned above – no one is talking. – see update below.
See 12-04-09 update below. This story seems to be verified now. Take at look at the update below and tell me how you would have felt had you paid for a flight and been forced to ride along with the Muslim men implicated in this story.
A group of 13 “non-English-speakers came to the Atlanta gate together. A total of 73 passengers boarded the flight. One of the 13 refused to get off of his cell phone, and then turn the phone off. The Captain returned to the gate.
The man on the cell phone, and his translator, were removed from the flight with the 11 other non-English-speakers following. The 11 were eventually told they could reboard. The man on the phone and his translator were not allowed to board.
After the 11 entered the plane, 12 others, presumably speaking English, chose to get off the flight. I would have been one of them.
Here is a part of the conversation apparently held between a reporter and one of the passengers:
Do passengers know the rules or abide by them
“I never turn it off. I leave it on all the time,” said one passenger.
“You really don’t now what the rules are as far as when you can and can’t use it?” we asked.
“No–no idea,” said another passenger.
Here is a link to what the Associate Press passes-off as journalism. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution printed the same. There is no mention of “non-English-speakers” in either report.
The flight left Atlanta 2-1/2 hours late. I’ve searched for some news outlet reporting what language these 13 spoke, but no one wants to go there. Now we’ll have another lawsuit, as we did in the case of the Flying Imams – and the Imams won. CAIR attorneys were likely on the phone with the cell-phone-non-English-speaking-man before they left the airport. No charges were filed and no one was detained.
Tell me who would not understand a flight attendant telling you to get off the phone? No English needed for that. If the offenders were not Muslim, I’ll think about apologizing for my assumptions. It is entirely possible the non-English speakers were Danish or French or Russian, right? Thanks to an alert reader and super-news-sleuth, who has an amazing game for children to adults. Visit her site at Travel-Light.
This report says that a passenger sitting behind the offending passenger was looking at photos on a cell phone:
It’s unclear whether he was talking on the phone, snapping photos or
texting, AirTran spokesman Christopher White said. But to airline
officials and flight attendants, it didn’t matter. The Boeing 717 had
pulled away from the gate, and the phone was on, White said.
“Flight attendants were telling him, ‘Turn off the phone, turn off the phone,’” White said.
“We can’t taxi with the cell phone on, and we certainly can’t take
off,” White said. “Language barrier or not, you start to butt up
against interfering with a flight crew.”
About the email I mentioned above, after reading this latest report from the Atlanta Journal Constitution, I have problems with the email. The email is all over the web. By this time, someone in the media – FOX – would have interviewed the email author. What he is claiming is so extraordinary that his story deserves airing, if true. Obviously, there are many other passengers on the flight. Someone would be telling the same or a similar story if it is true. Just my opinion.
However, I do believe there is a great probability that the non-English-speakers were Arabic speakers. I’ll stay on the story.
Snopes has linked to a document allegedly written by Chaplain Dr. Keith A. Robinson. Robinson says he was slated to be on AirTran Flight 297. His connecting flight was late and the door to the jet way was closed, so he missed the flight and was rescheduled for a later flight. While awaiting the later flight, he noticed that Flight 297 had returned to the gate. To be clear, I have no way of verifying the following information.
Gate attendants looked stressed and concerned. “Officials” arrived “flashing badges and going down to the plane?”
After 6‐7 officials exited the door, suddenly it flew open and 12‐15 people from the flight hurried off the plane. Anger and fear was etched on their
faces as they jerked their carry‐on and tore into their computer bags to schedule another flight
out of Atlanta.
One gentleman confronted the gate agent demanding his luggage be removed from the flight.
As I spoke to him he related that when Flight 297 left the concourse the first time it began
taxiing to take off when approximately 12 men of Middle Eastern appearance stood up and
began dancing and singing in an Arabic dialect. They refused to be seated when directed to do
so by the flight attendants. Then, the singing stopped and some of the men took out their cell
phones and began taking pictures of the other individual passengers. Again, the men were
ordered to be seated by the flight crew and refused while continuing to take their pictures.
Next, the de‐boarded passenger related that a few of the men gestured with imaginary guns as
their fingers, indicating with their triggering action that they would shoot the people on the
Ten of men were eventually allowed back on the plane and then 12-15 passengers decided to get off the flight. This took approximately 2 hours, according to Robinson. Robinson said he talked to a man from Homeland Security and offered his services as a Chaplain.
Robinson was allowed to join Flight 297 and proceed to Houston. He says the offenders allowed back on the flight spoke only Arabic – and were noisely laughing.
Dr. Robinson spoke of tense conditions for the whole flight to Houston with other suspiciously scary things happening, like a Macbook being moved around and eventually hidden away by a pilot on the flight. You can read the pdf document at Snopes.
I am still not convinced by this report. There is no information to qualify how Snopes got Dr. Robinson’s statement. It seems very strange that some of these men would have been allowed back on the flight. That’s my disclaimer.
Doug Hagman at CanadaFreePress says CFP has verified the following information after a passenger on the flight contacted him. Saying that they took several days to get the investigation right and accurate, here’s what he found:
…the TSA and other government agencies want to keep very quiet. The
reasons, I have been told, is fear of predatory lawsuits, negative
publicity from accusations of religious profiling, and the obligatory
subjugation to mindless mandatory Muslim sensitivity training that make
a mockery of our American system of values. Interestingly, one airline
official told me “we don’t want to become another flight 300,” which is
a reference to a very similar scenario that took place aboard US Airways Flight 300 exactly three years ago.I was first contacted about this incident two days after it happened by
a passenger who was aboard AirTran Flight 297. Based on the allegations
made by this passenger, we conducted additional research, interviews
and investigation, all of which takes time to insure accuracy, and are
now able to release our report of the incident that took place aboard
that aircraft. Be prepared to be shocked, angered, and perhaps saddened
by our national and corporate acquiescence to mafia-type tactics by
Islamists who are engaged in a full frontal assault, and laughing about
it.A group of thirteen men dressed in traditional Muslim attire were
among 73 passengers who boarded AirTran Flight 297 on Tuesday, 17
November 2009, a routine flight scheduled to depart Atlanta Hartsfield
Airport, gate C-16 at 4:43 PM ET to Houston Hobby Airport. Reports
developed by this investigator found two witnesses who observed direct
interaction among all of these Muslim men at the terminal.As the passengers boarded the aircraft, two of the Muslim men took
seats in first class, while the remaining eleven were seated throughout
the remaining rows of the aircraft. Most had carrying-on bags that they
stowed in the overhead compartments above their seats.As the aircraft began to taxi to the runway, a female flight
attendant was beginning to issue the normal passenger advisories over
the PA system. Almost on cue at the time passengers were told to turn
off all electronic devices, one of the Muslim men seated in the front
of the plane began to use his cell phone in a manner that was described
by a flight attendant and passenger “as deliberate and obvious.” He
was talking loudly in Arabic, nearly at the level of the flight
attendant. Some reports suggest that this man actually called another
Muslim passenger, although this has not been immediately confirmed. It
is possible, however, as another passenger reported that a Muslim man
seated toward the rear of the plane answered his cellular phone at the
same time the man in the front began using his.At this point, the flight attendant in the front of the plane
approached the Muslim man using his telephone and instructed him to
immediately turn it off. A second female flight attendant did the same
at the rear of the aircraft. Concurrent with this cellular activity,
two other Muslim men seated adjacent near the middle of the aircraft
began operating what one passenger described as a palm type camcorder,
ostensibly to view previously taken footage. It is possible, according
to one flight attendant interviewed by this investigator, however, that
the camcorder was being used for recording purposes. Whatever its use,
a third flight attendant, aware of the incidents taking place in the
front and rear of the aircraft, approached the two men for the purpose
of securing the camcorder. At least two passengers reported that the
men became abusive to the flight attendant and initially refused to
comply with her request.It was at this time that most of the passengers began to notice the
multiple incidents involving over a dozen men dressed in Islamic
attire. Next, as if previously rehearsed, at least ten of the 13 Muslim
men aboard the aircraft began to leave their seats at the same time. At
least one passenger stated she observed one of the Muslim passengers
using his cell phone to take photos of other passengers on the
aircraft, while one other Muslim passenger sang loudly in Arabic.
According to information provided to this investigator from one of the
flight crew who was alerted to an onboard emergency, the aircraft was
now being taxied back to the terminal. The TSA, FAA and FBI were notified.Once back at the terminal, the thirteen men were escorted from the
aircraft by TSA and security officials. According to a report from an
airline security official, their baggage was also removed and searched,
the search finding nothing of apparent danger. According to a law enforcement official interviewed by telephone by this investigator on Monday, investigation revealed that
all of the Muslim passengers are acquainted with each other and are
associated with (or have ties to) a large Islamic center that has been
the subject of investigative interest.According to one aircraft passenger I interviewed, what happened next was “unbelievable” and caused a great deal of upset among the aircraft passengers and flight crew (some who opted off the
flight in anger, fear, or admittedly, a mixture of both emotions).After a lengthy delay while officials dealt with these Muslim
passengers, ten (one uncorroborated report suggests 11) of the Muslim
passengers were permitted to re-board the same aircraft to complete
their flight. Some passengers and flight crew, traumatized by the
blatant actions of the Muslim passengers, refused to travel with the
Muslims who caused this orchestrated disturbance.
The flight proceeded to Houston safely, but Hagman said it was not without “curious incidents by the very same Muslim men who caused the initial delay and disturbance.
During the flight, one passenger interviewed by this investigator
described the behavior of two of the Muslim passengers as less overt
but still suspicious in nature. Without apparent legitimate purpose,
one Muslim passenger moved a stowed bag from one part of the aircraft
to another, well away from his seated position. Another spoke loudly in
Arabic, with all appearing to interact in one form or another.
Hagman says officials told him that this was a well-orchestrated attempt to “change the status from passengers to victims of religious profiling.”