Last week, three Mexican Jewish passengers on an Alaska Airlines 737 strapped tefillin prayer boxes to their foreheads and started praying—and all hell broke loose. The crew put the cabin in “lockdown” mode, and by the time the plane landed, police, FBI, and ambulances were waiting. It was the second tefillin-related scare of the year. After acknowledging that it might have been "prudent" for the trio to "head off any overreactions by letting people know what you're doing," Salon columnist and pilot Patrick Smith was left with one question: “What the heck is the matter with us?” The crew's reaction wasn’t one of caution; it looks like "full-blown hysteria."
Don’t believe him? Here’s a partial list of ridiculous freakouts since the 9/11 attacks:
- In January, a passenger was detained over a “suspicious” carry-on bag that contained … a bagel.
- In 2006, a Delta plane made an emergency landing because a passenger spent too long in the bathroom.
- In 2004, a United Airlines 747 jettisoned thousands of gallons of fuel and reversed course because a barf bag was found in the bathroom with the letters “BOB” scribbled on it—which for some bizarre reason United concluded meant “bomb on board.”
- In 2002, the military scrambled fighter jets when some karaoke singers on an Air-India flight chatted excitedly and pointed out their window at New York.
“Passengers are notorious for losing their minds in and around airplanes,” Smith writes. But crews “have less of an excuse, and there is nothing in our books or protocols that says we have
to respond foolishly to every mildly peculiar situation.” Click to read his full list