The Cranky Ol' Bat

Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death! - RuPaul


So....What's it Like When the Authorities Divert Your Flight?

It seems like every week another flight is getting sent back to Europe or Canada, and someone described as being of "Middle Eastern descent" gets escorted off the plane. This blogger was aboard the Alitalia flight that was forced to land at Bangor due to an undesirable passenger.

However, it does not look like it is a strictly American phenomenon. A blog dedicated to women's finance, called Women's Wall Street, has an entire series of articles about air security problems. According to that website, an incident involving a British Airways flight to Boston involved commandos storming a plane on the tarmac at Heathrow last month. I don't recall any mention of it in the American or international press.

So, how are these people ending up on the plane in the first place?

Well....depending on how you see it, the blame for letting them get on/the credit for catching them before they see our amber waves of grain and purple mountain majesties rests with the Department of Homeland Security. Airlines are required to transmit their manifests to the DHS up to 15 minutes after takeoff.

Due to the fact that there are sometimes many different possible spellings of non-Latin alphabet names (for example, the love of my life, Tsar Charming, has a couple different valid spellings on file with DHS because the various agencies can't always agree on how to convert Cyrillic to Latin), there are going to be problems that crop up from time to time. Just like Santa, they check the list twice.....the second time has more detailed info like birthdates.

If a name on the manifest then matches a name on the database, the decision is made as to whether or not the person will be apprehended at their stated destination or at another airport. The alternate could be the originating airport or the closest suitable airport (hence the sudden popularity of Bangor, Maine for forced down aircraft.)

What's a jet-setter to do?

Keep in mind that the amount of flights diverted is very, very small. That guy sitting next to you from Saudi Arabia is more than likely not going to be anything other than some guy who wants to get to school or Disneyland. And....pack another book and snack. That inflight movie probably is going to suck.


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