Should I Have Reported This Passenger To Immigration?

I’m curious what you guys make of this situation. Yesterday I flew Turkish Airlines from Istanbul to New York. More on the flight as such in another post, but something strange happened upon landing.

I’m not sure where this falls on the scale of “if you see something, say something” to “snitches get stitches/mind your own business.”

Let me say that in general my default mentality is to give people the benefit of the doubt on things, unless I feel really confident about something. Maybe that’s wrong, but part of the reason I feel this way is because so many people have used prejudices (racial, religious, etc.) to accuse people of things they didn’t do.

For example, we’ve seen a countless number of stories of people reporting passengers to airport police for nothing more than speaking their native language.

Anyway, after landing in New York the seatbelt sign was turned off. I was in the last row of business class, and was standing in the galley by the second set of doors near one of the flight attendants waiting for the main cabin door to open. The flight attendant closed the curtain to economy.

At that point a guy walked through the curtains from economy with a big duffel bag in hand, manually unlocked the bathroom door, and darted in. That’s to say that the bathroom door was locked, but he knew how to unlock it (this involves lifting the latch), and it’s something that only crew members are supposed to do.

The flight attendant quickly responded. “Sir, you can’t do that.” The flight attendant even pushed the door open a little bit to prevent him from doing this, but the guy just responded by holding it closed.

At this point the flight attendant called the captain, though there was no answer — I’m guessing the pilots were ready to get out of the plane and didn’t hear it ringing.

Now here’s the thing — it’s one thing if the guy said “sorry, I really have to go to the bathroom” or was feeling unwell or whatever. That happens, and is totally legitimate. But he refused to follow crew instructions, manually opened a bathroom door that he wasn’t supposed to, and was acting quite suspiciously.

It took probably about five minutes for the cabin door to open, and in that time there were no sounds (including flushing) or obvious smells coming from the bathroom.

At that point I walked off the plane (with the guy still in the bathroom), and spent my walk to immigration thinking about whether I should report what I considered to be a suspicious situation:

  • The behavior was suspicious, though suspicious doesn’t necessarily mean nefarious (I’m often accused of being suspicious for my picture taking, so…!)
  • Maybe I’ve seen too many episodes of “Locked Up Abroad,” but the behavior he exhibited matched what I’d expect from someone who has something to hide
  • If this were a US airline I wouldn’t have said anything because I’d be certain the crew would report him, call the police, etc., but I didn’t think this crew was going to report this, even though the flight attendant found this concerning; that’s just a guess, but after a long flight and being in a foreign country I’m guessing they just wanted to get to their hotel and didn’t want to complicate things, because if they reported it they might have to be interviewed, complete paperwork, etc.

So in the end I didn’t say anything. I shared the story with Ford, and he said he would have said something.

To be clear, if I had said something, I would have just explained the behavior that I saw and would have described the guy. I wouldn’t suggest anything beyond that.

Would you have said something to an immigration officer in this situation?

Comments

  1. After such a long flight, I would have minded my own business to be honest. I would just want to go home.

  2. since you saw that the flight attendant was already aware of the situation it’s her job to deal with it and alert the authorities therefore I don’t see how you telling someone else would have made a difference.

  3. Yes. You should have reported the situation. I am a retired ICE Special Agent. At a minimum you should have waited at the top of the jetway and followed the passenger into the sterile area and informed a CBP Officer. Turkey is a high transit location for narcotics. The passenger could have dumped his travel documents and then claim asylum. Very hard to find the discarded document once the cleaners get on board. The passenger could have stashed something in the lavatory for the ramp personnel. All kinds of scenarios or it could be nothing. You will never know unless it’s reported. Don’t worry about profiling. You would be surprised who CBP/ICE have intercepted for smuggling. Lesson learned for next time.

  4. You have an easy out here– the crew member already was aware of the situation, so at this point they would have taken the appropriate next steps, and if they didn’t it means they didn’t deem the situation to be dangerous enough. The situation would have been trickier if you were the only person who saw this.

    There’s also the possibility that the passenger didn’t speak English which could have aggravated the communication with the crew member?

  5. I think that I would have left it since the FA was well aware of it. Why get involved. I don’t think you are overreacting and certainly not paranoid. But all you would do is wind up getting detained to answer a bunch of questions. It would take something suspicious about which the crew was unaware for me to speak up. If it were, I would have told a crew member and left it at that.

  6. I get your concerns. If there was security/police just off the airplane you could have mentioned it to them or immigration. That said you would need to be VERY detailed with whom you observed. Depending on how and where you mention it the reporting could caused a lock down in the terminal. Making a bee line to get to customs would allow them to flag passengers fitting your description from that flight.

  7. Im not sure what he could have done on the ground thay he couldnt have done prior without acting suspicious. So yeah probably urgent need to use bathroom.

  8. In college I walked to my parking spot to find a trio of scary individuals of a different race. I walked back into a nearby library for another hour and when I came out they were gone. Had they been of my race I would have called campus police for an escort. Unbeknownst to me, a young coed was parked next to me and had gone to her car shortly after I was back in the library. She was brutally raped and murdered, an act I could have prevented had I called the police. Better a snitch, than someone in the ditch.

  9. You’re too kind, Lucky! I would have talked to the FA and asked him/her if all is ok or if there’s anything I can do to help but that’s all I would have done.
    Also, if I saw other business class pax witness it, I’d at least ask them to confirm that they saw the same thing I saw (after an ultra-longhaul flight like IST-JFK, I’ll admit I’d be simply tired and probably not 100%.)

  10. as a passenger I don’t see how this is so suspicious to report to police??? Maybe he didn’t speak the language or had to change etc but the crew was aware of the situation, so the fact that you want to be involved as another passenger is really odd to me. This is really “mind your business” situation.

  11. Sad that a female flight attendant could be totally disregarded by a male passenger.
    Prolly is all that happened. He didn’t care one bit about a woman telling him anything.

  12. If you “report” something to authorities, you probably can’t just wave good-bye and quickly proceed with your personal plans. Were you prepared to stay there for quite a while to play witness till the end?

  13. Mind your own business. Why get involved? You would probably be held to provide more info, they would ask your name, phone number, etc… As you said the crew saw it so it is not that you were the only one that saw and did nothing. Let it go.

  14. Shrugs. Yes, the crew should have reported it and I have zero doubt that a US crew would have promptly done so. A foreign crew might not have. There are always airside restrooms and someone who knows enough to open the locked bathroom would know this. It was probably “just” a smuggler. I would have explained in detail to an officer exactly what I saw. It’s no excuse to say that it’s someone else’s job to report it and you had identifiable reasons this man’s behavior was suspicious.

  15. God you people are the worst. I wonder why you immediately assumed he was doing something wrong…

    As a brown male, I can never take pictures in a plane (like Lucky does all the time), because every time I have done it I got reported, and it becomes a long questioning session. What a privilege it is to be white…

  16. I agree, the behavior of that passenger was suspicious. However, If he was up to doing something illegal, wasn’t the way he did it really, really stupid?
    Why not go into the lavatory right before landing? Would not be difficult to be the last person in there during the approach. I feel his behavior was drawing unnecessary attention to himself and would therefore conclude it was probably nothing illegal.

  17. I disagree strongly with SteveK and others who immediately go to the “security” mentality when seeing behaviour they find unfamiliar. “The uniformed people are the experts, who will know how to handle this” just doesn’t wash any more. If there is a danger, the “professionals” would do well to consider how poisoned their reputation is by the doctor dragged off the plane bloodied, moody angry border Immigration officers making unaccountable decisions about people’s admission. We, the great unAmerican unwashed, can’t help being compassionate towards the foreigner who is anxious, panicked maybe, who realizes last minute that he’d planned to wear the grey turtleneck with the blue slacks, to give a better impression and who, through inexperience or cultural difference, doesn’t recognize the importance of “crewmember instructions”, or who simply hasn’t been informed of the importance of avoiding “different” behaviour approaching the border of the USA. An American might find his bathroom visit “suspicious” and tell “someone”.

    If the guy has illegal plans, they are almost certainly related to permission to enter USA or transit through USA. Not danger, not disease, not violence, not “narcotics”, not bogeyman, the most likely is that he ‘s panic stricken about his treatment at the hands of the Immigration officer he will face soon. Americans, immune from these experiences, can’t understand the anxiety we non-Americans feel as we approach judge, jury and executioner in one unaccountable person. We’ve heard stories you haven’t heard. Ask an African American about Driving While Black. Flying to USA is like that for many. Yes, there’s a chance he’s a terrorist with a billion dollars worth of heroin laced with fentanyl he plans to personally inject into your sister’s infant daughter. But Ochem’s razor applies here: the simplest explanation is the most likely. He’s a nervous foreigner and he’s heard stories about American border officers.

    Give the passenger the benefit of the doubt, as the US constitution/Bill of Rights does, on principle. Give up principle for security? You’ll have neither.

    Judge, jury, executioner with a rubber stamp. He better be a “dedicated professional civil servant”. Nearly all are.

  18. @ DenB — I don’t disagree with a lot of the things you say, though I’d note that what I found strangest is that he knew how to unlock the lavatory door without hesitation. Otherwise I would have assumed he didn’t understand the language, wasn’t familiar with protocols on planes, etc. That would make perfect sense.

    But unlocking the lavatory door without any hesitation is something 99%+ of passengers don’t know.

  19. I don’t see what his behavior has to do with Immigration. Did he change identity? Or are you talking about smuggling and therefore Customs?

    He possibly was up to no good but the authorities are better equipped to judge that than you. With APIS information available for more than 10 hours before landing they should already know who to Target.

    The one time I flew Turkish, landing in London we were met by Border Force at the top of the jet bridge: they clearly knew who they wanted.

  20. Why should you have reported it when the FA clearly took care of the situation? Did you not trust his actions? Being back on US soil were you expecting him to be beaten and dragged off the aircraft typical of behaviour on US carriers at US airports lol. Have been avoiding transit through the US for a long time and don’t intend to. Happy with the way things work in Canada 🙂

    Flushing and bad smells lol. He probably went in there to change with his carry bag. Or was that fact he was an Economy passenger infiltrating into Business lol. This is clearly one situation where you should have minded your own business…which you did. Now get working on that trip report. Love Turkish Airlines.

  21. – OmAAT jumps the shark
    – slow news day at OmAAT
    – Who needs a wall? We’ve got OMAAT

    Gezzz, wow. I will never get the 5 minutes back it took me to read this crap.

    You are a pax, not a crew member, not ICE, nothing.

  22. @ dwefwe — If it makes you feel any better, I totally recognize that and think it’s unfortunate. I realize I probably wouldn’t have as easy of a time taking pictures on planes if I wasn’t white. That’s wrong, and it’s something I’m well aware of.

    However, for what it’s worth, the passenger in question wasn’t “brown.”

    As far as immediately assuming he did something wrong, well he most definitely did do something wrong, which was repeatedly violating crew member instructions, which is a violation of FAA regulations.

  23. @dwefwe +1

    Flying While Not White American

    Ben isn’t racist, we know that from his body of work. But “security mentality” is endemic now in that country. “Sad” as a famous person likes to say.

    Applying for NEXUS is a great example of this: one is interviewed by sworn border protection officers of two countries. The US wants to know if you’ve visited Iran. Canada wants to know if you understand how to use the machine 🙂

  24. @ Nb — It has to do with immigration because those are the relevant law enforcement officers before you enter the country. You generally deal with CBD officers, not police officers. I’m using the term “immigration” to refer to them.

  25. @Ben (lively debate with someone I admire)

    I’ve known how the little flap lifts since I was 16. So have you.

  26. Wow, @DenB®, you got it spot on! After various worldly experiences, this is exactly what I thought of the situation.

  27. sounds like a job for the FA/airline to deal with, not a random passenger

    FWIW, I’ve watched the FA’s lock and unlock the lav door a million times. I’m pretty confident I would know how to do it if I needed to

  28. Most likely flushing illegal drugs down the toilet. Don’t blame you for not reporting tho as typically it’s never as easy as just flagging down a police officer and telling them as you would then be classed as a witness etc.

  29. I obviously wasn’t in the situation, but I can say with a lot of certainty that I wouldn’t have said anything. Above all the FAs were aware of the situation, and although they are not ICE officials they are more qualified and have more of a duty to assess and report suspicious behavior. As is my general belief, the justice system in this country (U.S.) is too biased against certain people in society for me to be the catalyst for a criminal inquiry into a person I do not know for a situation I do not fully understand.

  30. Your Should (could) have notified officials about this. This is ALL our problem / concern. I’d prefer to tell security or customs, while keeping an eye on the specific passenger. Hey Ben, discreetly, take a picture of him.

    End of the day, I best remember as a kid, when neighbors kept an eye out for one another. Too late now Ben.

    Hey, you’re NOT obligated to do anything, but obviously your conscience has you pondering.

    Really, the clowns comment about building the wall, while NOT a fan of “the wall”, doing something, saying something could be “the wall” to keeping us all safe and sound.

    Like Socrates said “know thyself” !

  31. @ DenB — I’m assuming you’ve also known since 16 that you have to follow crew member instructions, though, right? 😉 And thanks for reading/commenting!

  32. Unlocking aircraft washroom doors is not a big thing especially when FAs do that in front of pax all the time. Ever read of a washroom being locked mid-flight. Now if he had to unlock the crew rest areas it was a different thing. Sorry Lucky, but stereotypical paranoid behaviour portrayed by such folk like you lol

  33. Wow, talk about paranoia! What has happened to us that so many of my fellow Americans look at everything that’s unusual with suspicion?

    And this wasn’t even unusual. He probably needed to change – maybe he gambled and lost with a fart, who knows. Someone wanting to ditch their ID or do something else nefarious wouldn’t have waited until the last minute and done it in a manner that drew attention to himself.

    You grossly underestimate how many people know how to unlock the lav door – it’s not a huge percentage, but many frequent flyers know – and anyone who has happened to look when an FA was doing it. It isn’t rocket science.

    MYOB.

  34. I agree with @Lars K. Since the TK crew saw it, I wouldn’t have alerted anyone at the airport.

    I must admit that I too have unlocked an airplane bathroom door from the outside (something I’m sure many of you know how to do) when I needed to remove a stain upon boarding, actually at IST on a TK flight to JFK 🙂

  35. I love how Dana’s was so quick to play the sexism card that she automatically assumed that a flight attendant HAD to be a woman. That’s pretty sexist in and of itself.

  36. Why is it so unusual to know how to unlock the lavatory door? If you frequently fly an airline that locks the doors for take off and landing, chances are you have seen it done loads of times. It is not like they are trying to hide the way it is done.
    Secondly, why is it suspicious to do it? I have done it several times when the crew have forgotten to unlock the door well after the seat belt sign has gone off in flight. Though I am quite sure I would ask if it is OK to just pop into the restroom before doing so, I can see why people would just do it.
    Thirdly, if I had dubious intentions, I would be sure to ask nicely, to not draw attention to what I was doing.
    Total overreaction to even thinking about whether it is something you should report.

  37. Wrt to knowing how to unlock the lav: please. An FA showed me how to do that on a 747 when I was six.

  38. If the crew was unaware, I would have reported it them. Since at least one crew member was aware, I would have left it to them.

  39. @Ben yes you’re right about “crewmember instructions”.

    Funny aside: I like window. I read and I never use IFE, except for Airshow. Now that we live in a world where people don’t read, I’m invariably told to close my blind. Here’s my answer nowadays: “Is that a crewmember instruction? Because I’m well aware that I’m required to comply with all proper, lawful crewmember instructions.” The FA has never, once, said Yes.

    Service levels after this interaction have varied 😉

    You thanked me for reading. Back at ya. OMAAT is an important part of life for many of us. Don’t underestimate that, Ben. It’s a Thing.

  40. Suppose you take it onto yourself to report it and don’t leave it to the crew: what would you say to the next CBP officer? There is a dude on the TK flight with a duffle bag who went to the bathroom?

    I would assume that the FA handled the situation adequately.

  41. @Debit I feel for ya, which is very rare. Without the typo, yours would be genuinely funny, and I’m as queer as a three-dollar bill.

    As I’ve learned the hard way, there’s no retroactive edit on boardingarea.

    Dang, I’m encouraging him. My Bad.

  42. Better safe than sorry. I have reported a few situations (none in airports) and 2 of them turned out valid and I was thanked profusely by the police department. The police told how many times people see things and don’t want to get involved when they could prevent a situation. They welcome reports, that is what they are there for.

  43. Thanks for not doing your part to (potentially) protect America’s borders, Ben! HELL YES I would have reported this. What’s the harm? The flight attendants aren’t American, so of course they wouldn’t give a crap.

  44. Usually those smugglers are hiding something in the lavatory then their ground staff friends go to pick up during cabin cleanup.

  45. Lucky is well travelled, and probably quite level headed in the things he do – this is my assumption based on his writings, his ethical philosophy for OMAAT, etc.

    I agree with many others here that the TK FA is responsible for reporting the incident. My qn here is why Lucky feels TK crew is unlikely to report. Of course if his concerns on the TK crew are valid (this sounds strange – Lucky thinks they will not do their job properly?), and he feels the passenger is highly suspicious (well, Lucky must have felt quite unsafe here), then perhaps Lucky should have reported it.

  46. WTF people. @Lucky did see something and say something.

    @Lucky just alerted the authority with this post.

    He saw something. I believe he doesn’t think it is an imminent threat so he didn’t say something then. But he said something now, just now. If it was like shoe/underwear bomber, passengers are the best defense against it. And if yesterday was the case, I’m sure other people would have intervene.

  47. If the flight attendant knew about this I don’t see why you’d need to get involved. Even if you had to get involved what would immigration have to do with it?

  48. I don’t have an opinion on whether more needed to be said in this particular case but there is certainly no shame in Lucky thinking about reporting and odd situation. People who follow this blog shouldn’t have much concern about his sense of fairness. Not sure why this comment section is so unusually polarized.

  49. Jay, I guess you only travel withing the US and on just US carriers lol. Folk like you make the rest of the world laugh at the US. Stop making it look bad for the rest of the country where there are a fair number of citizens who do not think like you at all. And yes they are just as patriotic.

  50. At that point its the FA’s responsibility, remember they are there for your security 🙂

    My one time that I almost called for security was at Sky Harbor airport in the gate area while waiting for a flight. This older guy (50s) dressed poorly started checking out this teenage girl and then tried to talk to her. It seemed very questionable.

    To keep the story short, I then heard him say he was an undercover officer, showed her his badge and said something about finding drugs in her checked bag and he would’t cuff her if she would follow him out of the area.

    I almost never would do anything unless it was something clearly wrong (saw a weapon, clearly heard a serious threat, etc.).

  51. I was not there but from your description it does not sound particularly “suspicious” to me.
    1. Unlocking the door: many people know how to do this…I’ve even seen many article published about this “secret” way to unlock the lav doors
    2. Going to bathroom: again, something I see a lot after the seatbelt sign is turned off. Lines are long prior to descent and people might just want to go after landing to change
    3. “Disobeying crew instructions”: honestly I’m kind of tired of this being overplayed. Just because it’s the law does not make it always “right.” I understand that it’s an FAA safety regulation but it’s been used a lot to treat people harshly/unfairly IMO and kick them off planes for all kinds of lame reasons from asking someone to move seats and not wanting to up to the whole Dr Dao situation which is the extreme situation. This all encompassing threat of “you can be arrested for not listening to the FA” is tired and I consider myself quite safety conscious but there has to be a limit. When there is a clear safety implication such as standing around when taxiing/opening the overhead I get following that instruction; but
    like the commenter above said, are we going to let people get arrested for not closing their blinds or not putting their phone in airplane mode?

  52. What Roger said. The FA was doing his job. I most certainly would not have butted in unless I saw clearly that something illegal was happening and that the FA couldn’t handle it on his own.

    There are 6 million possible reasons why someone would (a) know how to open a locked airplane bathroom door, and (b) not communicate with the FA as to why he did it. It’s not really suspicious.

  53. @Ben “You generally deal with CBD officers, not police officers.”

    CBD officers? Are those only in California, Colorado, and Washington? Or maybe you meant CBP? 😉

  54. you didn’t say anything at the time but wrote an article about it anyway!?!?!?!

    The crew – as you saw and wrote – were clearly dealing with it.

    If you want to ‘help’ then send a note to Turkish Airlines offering a statement of what you saw.

  55. Political correctness in, common sense out.

    Report what you saw. His race is irrelevant. It’s not like you were making something up to try to malign someone

  56. At a minimum, talk to the FA or Capts and tell them the issue. If you don’t get warm and fuzzy from them then tell customs.

  57. @Ryan,

    “Wow, talk about paranoia! What has happened to us that so many of my fellow Americans look at everything that’s unusual with suspicion?”

    9-11.

  58. Surprising responses. I would not have reported and definitely would not have interfered (its not safe, you aren’t trained).

    And why is everyone so quick to stereotype the foreign airline that they wouldn’t report it?! As if normal everyday citizens in Turkey, or anywhere else, support drug trafficking? All airlines flying to the US have to follow certain rules. It sounds like the attendant was doing their job, if they “didn’t care” like so many people have said, they wouldn’t have tried to stop the individual, open the door, or call the pilots. (Had that been the case maybe I wouldn’t have acted differently).

    I don’t think its stereotyping to say an individual breaking the rules and resisting a crew member is suspicious. I think it is stereotyping and borderline racist to say a foreign crew member can’t do a good job because they aren’t American and will turn a blind eye to any behavior that could endanger other passengers and themselves (much less the country they are in)…

  59. It’s none of your business since an FA had seen it. NOW if a crew member had not, then sure report it if you must….lol The guy might have had a medical emergency, it happens!.

    Its for US customs and immigration to deal with these matters, not you!.

    Oh yes, this type of post is a nice money maker haha. How does this help now???

  60. Why are you so desperate to be seen as somebody knowledgable and important?

    A guy popped into a damn bathroom. The flight crew saw it, that’s where your involvement ends. Sheesh.

    > I’m guessing the pilots were ready to get out of the plane and didn’t hear it ringing.

    You’re guessing, because you don’t know a damn thing about what pilots do, or anything else about aviation. It’s not like the pilot shuts off the plane, pockets the keys, hops out and goes to have a drink. There are tasks they need to perform after arrival. Jeezus, the ignorance and sense of self-importance is breathtaking…

  61. I would not have as I do not travel much and probably would not have noticed it or thought much about it. In fact while reading the aeticle my first thought was he would not have been able to hold it until he gets off the plane. Only after I read your article I realized there may be something more than that. So, if I were you I would abd that’s coming ftom a briwn immigrant dude

  62. That is what pisses me off about europeans and Americans. They turn their eyes aways and pretend they are not there… (not talking about you but about the comments…all spineless morons). If you see something that you think is wrong…follow your gut! Worst case scenario for the person that it’s nothing and he will be ok after checks. Better be safe than sorry, and sorry can be really sorry! Report if your gut feeling says the behaviour is not normal…mind your safety business and the others too!

  63. Immigration weren’t the right people to call, you should have called CBP or airport police. It’s not an immigration issue, it’s a security/police/drugs issue.

  64. Lucky,
    You were right to not report this. It kind of bothers me that you are second guessing this.

    1. I can empathize with having to use the bathroom at the end of the trip. Perhaps the person also wanted to tidy up his appearance, etc.

    2. I agree with what you said about following crew member instructions being a requirement under FAA regulations. However, do FAA regulations apply to an airline based in Turkey? I would have thought that the Turkish regulations would apply instead. They may have something similar, I am not sure. Perhaps because it to the US, FAA rules would apply? I am not sure but I have been on foreign flights to the US where they cited their country’s rules, not US rules.

    3. In the US, passengers seem trained to listen to flight attendants as an authority figure. However, in a lot of other countries, this is not always the case. I have been on foreign flights in many instances where passengers ignore the crew telling them to sit down, etc. And in some of these cases, so many passengers break the rule that the flight attendants seem to ignore it completely. I am not saying that this is right or wrong, but it seems to be an in-flight cultural difference. It seems that since this is a foreign airline with passengers from around the world, one should not apply the US norm to this.

    4. If you are on a Turkish airline, you should trust their flight attendants as the authority and their judgment on this. One should not think that they are incorrect because they would do something differently from how one would do it on an American airline. This is a very Americentric attitude and as much as you travel the world, I am surprised that you had this bias. If the Turkish airline flight attendants find the behavior not to be worth reporting, you need to trust them at this.

    My guess is that following this attitude, some people could find it suspicious for one to knock on the closed door of an airplane. Fortunately for you , nobody in Slovenia seemed to find an issue with this type of behavior.

    5. There was a strong potential to ruin someone’s trip and maybe their life over reporting something believed to be suspicious if the person was innocent. They may have their profile flagged, be arbitrarily denied entry, etc.

    6. I would not be surprised if some people thought that photographing on flights was suspicious in some instances. Would you like people to report you for this type of thing?

  65. “But unlocking the lavatory door without any hesitation is something 99%+ of passengers don’t know.”

    And that is the operative phrase here, which Ben as a super-frequent-flier immediately noticed. The first thing I thought of “Was this guy a drug courier stashing something?”

    Which by the way happens literally every day at JFK … just ask the retired ICE special agent who commented above.

  66. First of all to everyone CBP is Immigration and Customs at the ports of entry in the US. They have wide range of authorities and enforce literally hundreds of federal laws….

    @Lucky- As a CBP Officer myself we sometimes get people who say stuff, and then we assess the situation ourselves. Granted some people are a bit paranoid, or out of it, but we take things seriously and would have least had a basic conversation with the subject to see whats up with him and if he needs further inspection. As many miles as you fly and the things you have seen, if you feel it warrants telling authorities it probably won’t hurt at all. Like @stevenK said, wait for him or follow him and alert a CBP officer at the global entry booth. most of them are senior people and not in the mood to work hard, but they have an obligation to take it seriously. Let someone know, we will look at it seriously.

    Also, coming out of IST there are a lot of different scenarios and its definitely a point of departure that warrants a few extra eye brow raises in some ways.

    Like @stevenK says, just say something. you will be on your way in less than 20 seconds after talking to the CBP officer. people like you are paramount in security. You have seen it all and knoww what is normal and “not normal”

    We’ll get him next time if we already didnt pick up on him when he came through the line!

  67. People in the comments are so rude

    The same people who are like “omg mind your own business” don’t seem to have a problem being nosey tools about how you should have handled it. Maybe they should heed their own advice.

  68. Unless I’m missing something, what Lucky noticed was a lack of communication between the passenger and the FA. So if the guy had a bathroom emergency, how difficult is it to say, “Please, I really have to go!” or “It’s urgent!” and then he could still shut the door and do his business. But what makes this story sound suspicious is that he totally ignored the FA and then it seems like he didn’t communicate with the FA from inside the bathroom. Why not? That’s what makes it suspicious to me. Also, if there weren’t any apparent “bathroom noises” then what on earth is he doing in there. If he’s changing clothing, putting on contact lenses, moisturizing his face, etc. he could have just said “I have an emergency” and that’s it. It sounds suspicious to me, but I had no idea one could report these types of things. Just learned something new.

  69. Would you still have reported/not reported had this occurred on Lufthansa? BA? ANA? Cathay Pacific? China Airlines? Emirates? Delta?… If the answer is consistent, then I think you can sleep rest assured that you made the correct choice.

  70. I think I would probably have asked the flight attendant something like ” are you concerned he is hiding something in the bathroom ? Are you going to report this passenger to security .” If he had said NO then ,I would have reported him myself to security .
    Istanbul ……………………..collusion ???

  71. Most likely bathroom emergency (he could have been restricted to his seat for the previous 45 minutes) possibly compounded by language issues. Once FAs were aware, I too would have let it go.

  72. OF COURSE NOT.
    I mean, if it was mid-flight and no FA had noticed (like, not latch-involved, but something fishy otherwise), then fine.
    But, since you had arrived, were about to leave the plane, AND a FA had noticed: then what the heck do you care if they’re whatever, or do whatever?
    The person was obviously not a threat to the flight (as something would’ve happened) and, any threat to the arriving country (the US in this case is probably some watered-down one, such as “claiming asylum”. (As some quack claiming to be ex-ICE mentioned as an option).
    Bottom line: who cares. Maybe the poor person was in a dire situation (whatever it is), and the leats thing he needs is for you to make it worse with turning the blood-hungry immigration officers on him.
    Seriously, Ben. Just the fact that you CONSIDERED snitching on him AND even thought enough of it to turn it into an article….says A LOT ABOUT YOU.
    (and not in a good way).
    Like, seriously. Don’t be the ugly american. (Hard for you to pull off not being one, as is apparent by now).
    Think that even YOUR livelihood (this ever-dwindling-for the-worse blog) might come across as suspicious to MANY on board a flight.
    AND, you’re not seeking asylum. (Far more understandable, if you ask me).
    Like, seriously, dude.
    Don’t be that person.
    Btw, your blog’s become absolutely dreadful, and is now on the verge of becoming unreadable.

    CHILL, German sonderkommando.

  73. Should have reported it. Definitely suspicious behavior. Knowing how to open the locked lavatories from the outside, without hesitation is definitely a red flag. Although it’s simple, not every passenger really pays attention to know to unlock them. So if you know how to unlock it, you really have to be paying attention to what goes on. I fly often and there’s many other things onboard that grab my attention and pretty much all the time, I miss them locking the lavatory. To catch it, you’ve really got to be up to something, whether you’re creeping on the cute flight attendant, to straight up plotting something. But if you did report it, expect to be held up.

  74. “If this were a US airline I wouldn’t have said anything because I’d be certain the crew would report him, call the police, etc” … That’s a scurrilous comment to make, you are implying that non US carriers are less concerned with security than US carriers

  75. @ joe — No, I’m saying that as a general rule of thumb US airlines are way over the top when it comes to safety, and they’d report much less serious things as well.

  76. @Thomas. Not sure of your country. Europeans could use a bit more paranoia given their tragedies caused by terrorists. I travel a great deal in Europe and have been close to a bombing during the Troubles, emergency landing due to a bomb on board a European airline, evacuated from hotels twice due to bomb threats, and evacuated from subway once. Give me American paranoia

  77. Just sounds like a guy who needed to take a big dump right at the wrong time. He may have been trying to hold it until stateside, and his body had other ideas.

    Not everyone feels comfortable discussing their body movements in public, and a man could easily have not felt comfortable telling the flight attendant in English that he really had to go after a long flight.

    Only in America would this suddenly be something to call the authorities about. The FA saw it, and that’s their job.

    There are procedures in place to clear planes after international flights, otherwise it would be so easy to smuggle items in after learning flight schedules.

  78. Some 10 years ago, I reported in writing to DHS that during almost the whole flight between Casablanca and New York on RAM (a 767 at the time), the cockpit door remained open, with Business Class passengers literally walking in (to peek, which is completely natural if given the opportunity) on their way to and from the washrooms. At the time, that flight was a codeshare with Delta.

    Quite a bossy and , shall we say “mature” woman, the purser was originally from Swiss (I found that during our conversation) and she was the first to whom I remarked the fact. She merely shrugged and told me that “It’s always like that, it’s their culture”, which I found appalling. On the way out, I directly addressed the First Officer who was standing in the galley, only to be replied “What are you talking about? That door is never left open”.

    I have no idea whether there was a follow-up on my letter but I have been avoiding RAM ever since.

  79. I would never consider political correctness when there are security issues and, as it happens, Ben has shown the prejudices of some people on here to be unfounded. For me the question would be if I had confidence in the crew to handle it – there are questions over tgat here so I would have reported it. Not paranoia- unfortunately the environment we live in calls for us to be alert and not shrug it off and pass the buck. Whilst this is sad it is reality, and we know that airports are higher risk areas. And yes it could also have been to hide substances forbidden, incorrectly claiming asylum etc. As a responsible citizen passing the buck is simply not good enough. I’m with Ford!

  80. I would mind my own business. You don’t know the situation and I wouldn’t want it on my conscience for the consequences brought on by interfering in something that is absolutely none of my business. I wouldn’t want someone doing the same to me if I was in a foreign country. As a person who is concerned about the problems brought on by illegal immigration that means I support a physical barrier (wall) and deportation of all illegals. That doesn’t mean I believe tourists or citizens should be harassed and abused by overzealous CBP officers at airports. Just like the TSA I have no confidence in the morality or sensibility of CBP officers who follow unconstitutional and abusive guidelines.

  81. This has nothing to do with immigration just suspicious activity by the bathroom. The airline staff were aware of what happened and they would be tasked with reporting this if it rose to a level of suspicious activity. However, laymen usually get things wrong especially if they are Fox News devotees. There are many examples of flights being delayed because of bone headed claims that Arabs were talking in Arabic and were possible terrorists. I trust the opinions of professional not nosy busybodies who see danger behind every foreigner.

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