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Perils of “If You See Something, Say Something”

May 10, 2016
Plain English Version
Courtesy Ron Monroe, Flickr

Courtesy Ron Monroe, Flickr

What is the right thing to do? A woman gets on an American Airlines airplane. The person seated next to her looks like he may be an Arab. She says hello to him. He mumbles something and goes back to his work. He is writing numbers and symbols on a yellow pad. He is intense.

She feels uncomfortable. Well, what happens next happens every so often. She alerts the flight attendant. They ask the man to leave the plane.

The man is Guido Menzio. He is Italian. He is a well-known economist. He was on his way to deliver a paper at a conference.

The events delayed the plane for hours. It returned to the gate. The women who reported the man got off and never got back on. Mr. Menzio got back on the plane once he identified himself. This story has a better ending than many others.

Passengers raise suspicions about other passengers “from time to time” an airline spokesman. How did American Airlines do? The spokesman said the airline tries to resolve disputes in a peaceful way. Sometimes they ask a passenger to move to another seat. Changing flights sometimes solves the problem.

Mr. Menzio said he was “treated respectfully.” He said the security protocol is a problem. Once someone blows a whistle, everything stops while the complete the checking.

Recently, Southwest Airlines removed a young passenger from his seat. He was speaking Arabic. The man was Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, a college student.

Officials treated him roughly. They asked him why he was speaking Arabic. A verbal exchange followed. The student accused the airline of bias. The F.B.I. arrived and searched him. The student was not allowed to get back on the plane. He was able to board a different airplane. The F.B.I. took no further action.

Mr. Makhzoomi has not gotten an apology.

“If you see something, say something.” Everyone needs to use good judgment after someone says something.

Source: The Washington Post May 7, 206

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