Terrorists Beware When Ordering A Special Airplane Meal

Filed Under: Security/TSA

Oy, file this under “what were they thinking?” Governments collect a lot of information about airline passengers, often before they even arrive in the country. However, there are limits to the data that can be collected, as it doesn’t include things like religion (at least not officially).

However, at a recent border security conference in Hungary, Swiss’ facilitation and security manager had some interesting things to say. Per Middle East Eye:

Marina Ripa-Braescu, the facilitation and security manager for Swiss International Air Lines, told a conference on border security in Hungary last week that information about pre-ordered meals could be used to help governments find out more about those traveling to the country before they arrive.

“For example, if they order a Muslim or kosher or vegetarian meal, you already start to know a little bit about that person,” Ripa-Braescu said, referring to the halal meals that Muslim passengers can order.

After the comments got out, the airline backpedaled a bit, though still sort of justified the statement:

The Swiss airline on Thursday clarified the comments, stating that it would never hand over such information, but that such data could be “interesting” and of use to authorities.

So it would never hand over such information, but such data could be “interesting” and of use to authorities? Hmmm…

Perhaps the comment was taken out of context, or perhaps the idea was just poorly thought out. Regardless, I’d guess that someone boarding a plane with bad intentions has bigger priorities than ordering a special meal.

Etihad-Economy - 9

  1. The idea is known and it’s used by several law enforcement, it’s just not spelled out to the general public. There are many other ways of profiling that happen every single day at the airport, this is just a basic one. Yes, some potential terrorists likely won’t care to pre-order a special meal, but many have failed to pass security due to mistakes that they could have easily prevented, but didn’t. Thankfully though!

  2. Don’t see this as that horrible. It doesn’t mean that everyone who orders a certain meal is going to be stopped and frisked, just that it’s part of an overall profile.

  3. Interesting, but there are severe limits to the usefulness of this kind of info. In the past, terrorists are known to have gotten special permission from their religious leaders to shave and skip prayer times in order to blend in with the infidels and better carry out their mission of destruction.

  4. Had a friend with a Muslim last name check in for a flight in Switzerland and had SSSS – agent commented “yes I see the last name” (not that the Swiss airport folks have anything to do with SSSS selection, but a little taste of how matter of fact the culture is)

  5. I order Kosher occasionally. I’m not even religious, I just get bored with the same meals in business class when flying out to Zürich. I’d be laughing on the floor from the assumptions they would be making about me 🙂

  6. The Muslim meal on BA and SA are delicious and bigger even in business. Makes everyone next me envy..

    I will keep ordering them even though I am not muslim

  7. @eugene, As someone who observes kosher, it baffles me that you would willingly subject yourself to what the airlines try to pass off as edible food.

  8. I’m ordering “Muslm” meals for all of my future flights.

    What, are Trump’s thugs gonna start hanging out by The Halal Guys’ stand on Avenue of the Americas now?


  9. Those involved in intelligence scrub every bit of available data, this is not new news that they, or airlines for that matter, would do similarly.

  10. Jews don’t eat pork, Muslims don’t eat pork. terrorists don’t eat pork.

    Hmmm. Some people might actually agree with that statement. Entire state of Israel is a terrorist state?

  11. I order halal or kosher meals (or my favourite Cathay Pacific option – fruit plate) all the time. In economy long haul, you just want to get your meal first and go to sleep…

  12. The problem with aviation security is that there are more than 3 Billion passenger flights every year and there are maybe a handful of people with nefarious actions. It is a needle in a huge huge haystack problem to find those people before the flight through screening.

  13. United used to have a fish special meal, which was really nice even in economy. Even if it were still available, I’d never order it now for fear of being profiled as a shark.

  14. Ben please start ordering special meals and review them as we’re bored of seeing the same business and first class meals. There are probably nice options too available with selecting special meals that very few of us are aware of !

  15. I will still order vegetarian Indian. Points me out as a weirdo? Oh well. Happy tummy thank you very much.

    Vegan also used to be weirdo, now annoyingly hipster.

  16. When I have the misfortune to travel economy, I always order vegetarian. You normally get your meal before everyone else which seems to help a little. It sometimes leaves you with the positive feeling of it being a little less mass produced than the regular meals, although it’s often rather bland. In business the special meals tends to be served with the normal flow of service. On some airlines I have found that a veggy meal is a significant downgrade on the regular biz option – most notably on SQ. But some airlines go out of their way to deliver something really special for vegetarians – most notably QR. When traveling as a vegetarian it is also good to know which airlines have a veggy option withing their regular menu – for example VS where you should never order a special veggy meal, the regular veggy option being generally far better. Nobody seems to carry/review this information su you have to find it out as you go.

  17. It seems that terrorist like salad very much. It probably does not grow in the desert back home. So although I’m a vegetarian I always order my vegetarian meal without salad.
    So I never have a problem with airlines. But I also avoid to travel with American airlines because they are really freaking.

  18. This is utterly ridiculous. So someone who doesn’t eat meat because they love animals would be branded a certain way??? I’m a vegetarian and white as can be. Give me a break.

  19. Wee, the one thing that annoys me about airline food – you get a special meal for every weird stuff as long as someone ever has slapped a “religion” tag on it or as long as it is considered discriminatory not to offer it (e.g. vegan – although that has become a pretty religious thing for many too). But an option letting me choose that I simply don’t want any fish in my food because I cannot stand it? nada. zilch. If the airlines go out of their way to offer food only cooked from carrots that sacrificed themselves willingly, how hard would it be to simply offer a no-fish option?
    On the profiling part – well nobody will actually be surprised by this, will they? You cannot request special treatment and then at the same time require that this information is not stored anywhere. How would the special meal even make its way to you then? And considering Swiss data protection laws this is honestly the one airline (apart from German airlines) in the world that I would trust most to keep my data as private as it gets.

  20. I love how the butt hurt snowflakes have to drag Trump into this thread. You lost, snowflakes. Pull up your panties and get over it.

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