Healthy Skepticism

For the past decade I’ve been a serious frequent flier, in fact one year I racked up a Platinum card (the highest level) on Continental Airlines. I’ve been on commuter flights, discount flights, flown coach, flown first class, etc. – in short I’ve seen pretty much everything there is to see inside and airport and airplane.

One item I haven’t seen addressed substantially anywhere (I’ve not read comment sections extensively so it may be addressed somewhere) in regards to Annie Jacobsen’s Terror in the Skies article is the social dynamics of an airline cabin and the extent to which a group of travelers who know each other prior to boarding have on the social dynamics of a flight.

In case you hadn’t noticed it it’s summer time and at airports around the country that means groups – oh so many groups – of traveling teens. What traveler hasn’t seen a big group of teens coming down the concourse and secretly prayed they would not be stopping at your gate? Why the prayer? Veteran travelers know that a group of 20 teens – be they church group, high school swim team, you name it – change the atmosphere of a flight, and do so substantially.

In a cabin of 150, or so, passengers 20 teens spread out all over the plane in small groups command, and depending on the group, demand your attention. You may not even be aware that you are noticing their actions, conversations, or movements.

Read the story, replace Arabs with teens. It really doesn’t matter what kind of teen group you imaging. The moving around, socializing, and congregating should be familiar to anyone who has traveled on a summer discount fare flight filled with a group of teens.

If you’ve been on a flight like this you know you just can’t help but notice what they are doing…

When view through the lens of 9/11 and all of the warnings that have been made public since then perhaps the actions of the passengers fit a profile that would indicate a dry-run for terrorist activity. Change the lens though, by changing the ethnic identity component of the equation, and perhaps the groups activity fits into more familiar observed patterns of activity. In that case both the lens and the activities require scrutiny…


Fighting Invisibility
It can be fun being an illegal alien


  1. Christopher Cross July 17, 2004
  2. mac July 17, 2004
  3. Beth July 17, 2004