Preferring to be safe than sorry, a passenger on a flight taxiing down the runway for takeoff noticed the Middle Eastern man next to her watching a news report on a smartphone and quickly reported him for suspicious activity Tuesday morning.
The crew members told the pilot, who returned the plane to the gate, so police could board the plane and investigate.
Police ordered the man and three of his traveling companions off the plane. Then all passengers were ordered off the plane to allow Transportation Security Administration to search it.
Three hours later, the Spirit Airlines flight was allowed to depart from Baltimore to Chicago without the four suspicious passengers on board.
Upon arrival to Chicago O’Hare International Airport, passengers said they were relieved that they avoided a potential midair terrorist act.
“You have no idea, I want to kiss the ground right now,” Jenna Farella told the Chicago Tribune. “The whole thing happened right next to me.”
“I think someone’s doing their job and I’m liking it,” added Spencer Padgett. “You don’t pay much to fly on Spirit but I got every penny’s worth today.”
The four passengers were grilled by police, who eventually released them with no charges after determining they did not do anything illegal.
According to the Chicago Tribune:
Four people were removed from a Chicago-bound flight in Baltimore Tuesday morning, and the plane delayed for three hours, after a woman became suspicious of a man who appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent and who was watching the news on his phone, according to authorities and several passengers.
The woman grabbed her young daughter and rushed to the back of the plane, where she reported the man’s “suspicious behavior,” according to Sgt. Jonathan Green, a spokesman for the Maryland Transportation Authority, which patrols the Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.
“We did not find any criminal activity or violations of any kind and they were free to do what they pleased at that point,” Green said. “One of the three males was sitting next to a female passenger and apparently he was watching a media report. I don’t know of what nature it was, but given current events, I can imagine what it was.
“Being in her shoes, I’m guessing that combined with what she saw or heard created some concerns for her,” Green said. “She told the flight crew, which was most likely a flight attendant, and they spoke to the captain and the captain made the choice to go back to the terminal.”
So there you have it. We are officially back in the see something, say something state of paranoia that has done nothing but ceded victory to the terrorists.
But better safe than sorry, right?