In less than a month, an incident on an airline has turned into a "conspiracy" as a result of a widely disseminated e-mail.
I received my copy of the "conspiracy" e-mail Sunday night from a friend. He had forwarded an e-mail to what looked like everyone in his contacts folder.
Muslims were the subject of the e-mail and, of course, it contained a zinger directed at President Obama:
"In my opinion, the Muslims are all getting very brave now, since they have one of their own in the white house......read Tedd's story below. Semper Fi, - Gene Hackemack"
First thing I do when I receive such e-mails is go to Snopes.com, which does a terrific job chasing down the truth about such things. Snopes directed its readers to an actual AirTran news release that refuted the claims -- point by point -- contained in the e-mail.
I give that to you below with the company's explanations in bold and the e-mail content in italics:
After conducting additional research into this situation, we have verified, according to flight manifests (legally binding documents) that the individual that allegedly created a first-hand account of events on-board AirTran Airways flight 297, a Theodore Petruna, was never actually on-board the flight.
According to all available records, Mr. Petruna’s trip originated from Akron-Canton, Ohio (CAK) on AirTran flight 205. This flight arrived at the gate in Atlanta at 5:06 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Flight 297, the flight which Mr. Petruna allegedly wrote a first-hand account of, originally pushed back from its gate in Atlanta at 4:40 p.m. EST, a full 26 minutes before flight 205 arrived at the gate in Atlanta making this flight connection impossible.
While Mr. Petruna was originally scheduled to begin his journey on AirTran flight 202 from CAK and connect to flight 297 in Atlanta he did not make that original flight.
On November 17, 2009, AirTran flight 297 was scheduled to travel from Atlanta to Houston-Hobby. During taxi a passenger was non-compliant with Crew Members, using a cell phone and taking pictures. The flight taxied back to the gate and the passenger, who did not speak English, and his companion acting as his interpreter were asked to de-plane. They were met by customer service personnel and TSA.
The passengers were allowed to re-board and continued on the flight after speaking with AirTran and TSA representatives. The flight was delayed by more than two hours.
Since the flight and initial media reports, several blogs and Internet sites have recounted the incident as portrayed by a passenger originally scheduled for the flight. Below is that passenger’s account (unedited in any way including spelling and grammar), as reported on several blogs. Highlighted between the passenger’s account, are the factually accurate circumstances surrounding this incident.
We bring this to your attention in order to dispel myths that are beginning to make the rounds in chat rooms, blogs and conspiracy theorists’ Web sites.
I was in first class coming home. Eleven muslim men got on the plane in full attire. Two sat in first class and the rest peppered themselves throughout the plane all the way to the back.
The full party was 13 individuals. Their religion is not known to anyone at AirTran. The individuals in this party proceeded to their seats throughout the aircraft and were dressed like any other passenger.
As the plane taxied to the runway, the stewardesses gave the safety spiel we are all so familiar with. At that time, one of the men got on his cell and called one of his companions in the back and proceeded to talk on the phone in Arabic very loudly and very aggressively. This took the first stewardess out of the picture for she repeatedly told the man that cell phones were not permitted at the time. He ignored her as if she wasn’t there.
There have been no reports of any individual phoning any other individual on the flight. Furthermore it would be extremely difficult to know who someone is calling. If they are calling someone in the back of the plane, the person listening in on this conversation would not be able to hear the person in the back of the plane nor know where the call was going to.
The second man who answered the phone did the same and this took out the second stewardess. In the back of the plane at this time, 2 younger muslims, one in the back aisle, and one in front of him, window, began to show footage of a porno they had taped the night before, and were very loud about it.
It would be impossible to know what people were allegedly watching or whom they were speaking with in the back of the plane from Business Class. Furthermore, how would anyone know what was on this alleged videotape or when it was made?
Now, they are only permitted to do this prior to Jihad. If a Muslim man goes into a strip club, he has to view the woman via mirror with his back to her (don’t ask me, I don’t make the rules, but I’ve studied). The third stewardess informed them that they were not to have electronic devices on at this time. To which one of the men said, “Shut up, infidel dog!” She went to take the camcorder and he began to scream in her face in Arabic.
While the flight attendants did ask an individual to discontinue the use of portable electronic devices, there are no reports of screaming or shouting insults to our Crew Members.
At that exact moment, all 11 of them got up and started to walk to the cabin. This is where I had had enough! I got up and started to the back where I heard a voice behind me from another Texan twice my size say, “I got your back.” I grabbed the man who had been on the phone by the arm and said, “you WILL go sit down or you Will be thrown from this plane!”
There are no reports of any passenger standing up in a threatening manner. At NO time was there any physical altercation between passengers. Upon returning to the gate, the individual on the phone and his party were asked to de-plane and did so in full compliance of Crew Members’ instructions.
As I led him around me to take his seat, the fellow Texan grabbed him by the back of his neck and his waist and headed out with him. I then grabbed the second man and said, “You WILL do the same!”
This is simply untrue. At NO time was there any physical altercation between passengers.
He protested but adrenaline was flowing now and he was going to go. As I escorted him forward, the plane doors open and 3 TSA agents and 4 police officers entered.
At no time did any law enforcement or Transportation Security Administration (TSA) official enter the aircraft. Two TSA inspectors came to the gate to assess the situation and spoke with the individual involved and his party.
Me and my new Texan friend were told to cease and desist for they had this under control. I was happy to oblige actually. There was some commotion in the back, but within moments, all 11 were escorted off the plane. They then unloaded their luggage.
The entire party complied fully with Crew Members’ instructions to exit the aircraft in order to ascertain the situation. Their bags were not removed at any time.
We talked about the occurrence and were in disbelief that it had happened, when suddenly, the door opened again and on walked all eleven!!
After determining none of the individuals posed a security threat to the aircraft, the party was allowed to re-plane.
Stone faced, eyes front and robotic (the only way I can describe it). The stewardess from the back had been in tears and when she saw this, she was having NONE of it! Being that I was up front, I heard and saw the whole ordeal. She told the TSA agent there was NO WAY she was staying on the plane with these men.
There was no TSA or law enforcement agent ever on the plane.
The agent told her they had searched them and were going to go through their luggage with a fine tooth comb and that they were allowed to proceed to Houston.
There was no TSA agent on the plane and there was no additional screening of anyone’s bags.
The captain and co-captain came out and told the agent, “we and our crew will not fly this plane!” After a word or two, the entire crew, luggage in tow, left the plane. Five minutes later, the cabin door opened again and a whole new crew walked on.
The crews were swapped. This is a common occurrence in the aviation industry for any number of reasons. If a Crew Member cannot or will not continue a flight, we must replace that Crew Member.
Again, this is where I had had enough!! I got up and asked, “What the hell is going on?” I was told to take my seat. They were sorry for the delay and I would be home shortly. I said, “I’m getting off this plane.” The stewardess sternly told me that she could not allow me to get off.
Now I’m mad! I said, “I am a grown man who bought this ticket, who’s time is mine with a family at home and I am going through that door, or I’m going through that door with you under my arm!! But I am going through that door!!”
At no time did any AirTran Crew Member refuse to allow a passenger off the plane. Had any passenger threatened a Crew Member, we would have taken appropriate action, including contacting law enforcement.
And I heard a voice behind me say, “So am I.” Then everyone behind us started to get up and say the same. Within 2 minutes, I was walking off that plane where I was met with more agents who asked me to write a statement. I had 5 hours to kill at this point so why the hell not. Due to the amount of people who got off that flight, it was cancelled. I was supposed to be in Houston at 6pm. I got here at 12:30am.
After offering all passengers the opportunity to de-plane the aircraft, 12 individuals decided to not take this flight and opted to be re-booked. AirTran officials did not request any passenger to complete an official statement.
The flight was not cancelled and did continue to Houston-Hobby
Look up the date. Flight 297, Atlanta to Houston.
The flight was not cancelled and did continue to Houston-Hobby
If this wasn’t a dry run, I don’t know what one is. They wanted to see how TSA would handle it, how the crew would handle it, and how the passengers would handle it.
I’m telling this to you because I want you to know. The threat is real. I saw it with my own eyes.
The flight was not cancelled and did continue to Houston-Hobby.
The TSA determined this was a customer service issue. The party continued on the flight to Houston-Hobby that evening without further incident.