United Hates U.S. Diplomatic Relations With Pakistan

United has already mastered guitar bashing, so now the airline is moving on to more ambitious projects: screwing up diplomatic relations with other countries.

This past Sunday, nine men were removed from a United flight at Dulles International Airport because of something one of the passengers said to a flight attendant. When the news was widely reported on Monday morning, there were no details on the passengers or what was said.

But now we know that the nine men were military officials from Pakistan who had been invited to the U.S. for a defense conference, and before the plane took off one of them said in reference to a long day of traveling, “I hope this is my last flight.”

The Washington Post writes:

That sparked a call to Dulles law enforcement officials, who detained the delegation for 2.5 hours and refused to allow the officials to contact their embassy or the U.S. military officials who had invited them to visit, according to a Pakistani military official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Eventually the police at Dulles realized they weren’t terrorists and released them, but at that point instead of moving forward with their trip “the delegation was ordered to return to Pakistan by their military superiors in Islamabad, in protest of their treatment.”

“Pakistani officials leaving in protest” [Washington Post] (Thanks to Carl!)


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  1. agent 47 says:

    *sigh* Lets face it, the terrorists have won.

    • SPOON - now with Forkin attitude says:

      +1, unfortunately.

    • pantheonoutcast says:

      Which terrorist attacks have successfully occurred in the US as of Sept 11, 2001 when most of these policies were put into place?

      • sonneillon says:

        I can name many

        Beltway Sniper Attacks
        The ELF burning down several houses
        Federal Courthouse bombings in San Diego
        The Assassination of George Tiller
        The Little Rock recruitment office Drive By
        That guy who flew his plane into the IRS building
        and some others but those are ones you’ve probably heard about.

      • sleze69 says:

        I think the terrorist attacks on our civil liberties show they have won. Their hatred of our way of life has resulted in the changes to our way of life.

        – Now it takes 45 minutes to get through security at an airport and god forbid you bring an Evian with you.
        – AT&T was caught redhanded violating the 4th amendment.
        – The Patriot Act still exists, even with President Hopey McChange
        – Oil still costs a lot

      • RvLeshrac says:

        How many terrorist attacks occurred *before* 9/11? I can count the number of foreign terrorist attacks on US soil on one hand.

      • Pax says:

        One hand? And, only foreign …?

        You’re not looking hard enough, and you’re pointlessly throwing away all the home-grown terrorists born and raised right here in the U.S. of A.

  2. FatLynn says:

    I hope that flight attendant has to attend sensitivity training, and I hope it is really boring and scheduled for 5am.

  3. Torgonius wants an edit button says:

    Why not just fly a bunch of snakes over?

  4. pop top says:

    This is definitely a case of profiling. If a White or Black man had said it, no one would’ve had a problem. But a person from the Middle East says that and “Oh noes terrorism!” is shouted. I also find their treatment by the local police really unprofessional. Situations like these (and the racists that cause them) make the entire country look like a pack of fearmongering, racist bigots.

    • FatLynn says:

      Yes, I’m pretty sure you have a right to contact your consulate if you are being detained in a foreign country. Any lawyery types want to confirm?

      • Jdavis says:

        With all these new anti-terrorism laws in the name of national security, I would think there is somewaiver for these types of incidents.

        • FatLynn says:

          I don’t think the US can just unilaterally decide that, and if these incidents keep up, it will cause serious problems for Americans who travel abroad.

        • RvLeshrac says:

          A diplomatic passport means that there is *one* remedy for *any* crime you commit. You are delivered to your country’s consulate, and returned to your country from there.

      • mobiuschic42 says:

        Especially since I assume these guys were on a diplomatic visa.

    • pantheonoutcast says:

      “If a White or Black man had said it, no one would’ve had a problem.”

      No, they’d have to ask for a bottle of water or happen to inquire as to the status of the meal service to be kicked off.

      • pop top says:

        Yes but they wouldn’t have been questioned for almost three hours by local law enforcement without access to a lawyer, their consulate or any government representatives who would’ve supported their story.

    • tinyhands says:

      N, scrw Pkstn nd scrw Pkstns. Ths gys r bnch f dchbgs nyw. Dn’t y knw wht’s gng n n th wrld?

      • pop top says:

        You are a sad, pathetic racist and I feel sorry for you.

        • jason in boston says:

          How do you know he isn’t Indian? If so, that is a more than valid response.

          • pop top says:

            So it’s OK for him to be racist if he’s a minority?

            • tinyhands says:

              I didn’t write anything about race. I wrote that Pakistanis are douchebags. “Pakistani” is not a race, it’s a political distinction based on country of origin. I feel sorry for you that your only connection to the outside world appears to be this website.

  5. trey says:

    United = Divided.


  6. Darrone says:

    Yes, definitely racial profiling. That’s the most obscure threat I’ve ever heard.

    • pantheonoutcast says:

      No, incompetent TSA. Just this past year, a white man was removed from a plan for asking, “Are you serving any meals during our flight?” Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        A) TSA != flight attendants.

        B) In the case you mentioned, the flight attendent misheard the passenger. So, while his innocent question dis not warrant being kicked off, the one the attendent THOUGHT she heard was… sorta. It was still stupid, but not as bad as your lack of details suggest.

        • pantheonoutcast says:

          Whatever, I don’t care who the person who did the removing is – they all have the same level of poor training. It’s also a lot more understandable that a flight attendant remove a Pakistani passenger after mishearing “I hope this is my last flight” than after mishearing an old white passenger ask, “Are you serving any meals during our flight.” I’m not saying it’s right. But it’s understandable.

          • Conformist138 says:

            The removal is just the tip of the iceberg. How do you explain the treatment after they were removed? Imagine 9 American military men being taken by Pakistani officials and denied contact with the US Embassy. Now imagine the TANTRUM that Americans would throw; Fox News would be demanding we turn all of Pakistan into a smoldering crater by lunchtime.

            The dude who was misheard asking about meals wasn’t treated this way. He literally turned around and got booked on a new flight the moment he freely left the plane. No detainment, no questioning, no nothing. So, yeah, this was a horrific example of racism. I think you just feel really uncomfortable that racism exists, all your comments on this subject seem very defensive.

  7. MuffinSangria says:

    Personally, I’m glad Pakistan is making a big deal about this. If it hinders our already tense diplomatic relations with them, then maybe it will force some people to wake the fuck up and see that airline “security” in this country is a big fat joke.

    Of course, when I hear these stories all I want to do is get a big airplane full of people to all make the exact same comments. Just to show these airline/airport/tsa employees just how stupid they are acting.

  8. msky says:

    I feel safer already.

  9. hypochondriac says:

    How did the police even detain them. Don’t foreign officials have diplomatic immunity?

    • TechnicallySpeaking says:

      A. Thats not how that works. You can’t not arrest someone under reasonable suspicion of a crime because they have “diplomatic immunity.” They will merely get off of the charges, later.

      B. Only officials of a foreign body’s diplomatic service, traveling with diplomatic passports, are formally guaranteed immunity. Generally speaking that would exclude members of another country’s military, even if they are traveling on what might be described as a “diplomatic mission.”

      • Rachacha says:

        Absolutely correct. For example, an employee of the US Government may travel to a foreign country. While that employee may be called a “Government Official” on “Official Government Duty” they receive no special treatment (other than often being able to pass through the shorter “Foreign Government Offical” line at boarder control) from the foreign government. US Government employees are required when traveling internationally to register with the US State department so that the local Embassy knows the location of the official, and the host country may arrange for someone to meet the delegation or assist in local ground transportation, but unless they are classified as a “Diplomat” they get no special treatment, and they must abide by all of the local laws and regulations.

    • CityGuySailing says:

      The were not credentialed as such, just invited guests of the American Government. Pakistan will use any excuse to muddy the waters, even though the cause of this was a stupid flight attendant.

    • Hooray4Zoidberg says:

      “It’s just been revoked! “

  10. humphrmi says:

    From what I recall of dealing with INS (predecessor to Homeland Security) back 20 some-odd years ago, there are very strict rules, backed by international treaties, about how law enforcement can treat suspects once they identify themselves as diplomats. And I’m not just talking Rudd vs. Riggs in Lethan Weapon 2 here… law enforcement officers’ careers get severely nailed once the State Department has to step in and smooth over a problem caused by a Riggs.

    • Chipzilla says:

      Umm, according to TFA these guys were military officials – not diplomats (i.e. embassy/consular staff) so they wouldn’t have diplomatic immunity. No?

      • Gramin says:

        Agreed. One must have official diplomatic status to receive such treatment. Military officials usually do not have such status.

        On a side note… New Yorkers (city) hate diplomats because they frequently double park and the city can’t tow or ticket their vehicles.

        • hypochondriac says:

          Actually they get ticked all the time. They just don’t pay. A least that’s what happened last time I heard about it

        • the_wandering_monster says:

          This the world over; ex. (central) Londoners hate diplomats – particularly US – for this very reason; I remember a newspaper report that US diplomats were refusing to pay (I think) ten years worth of parking tickets in London…

          • Megalomania says:

            New York, what with the UN and all, has a much bigger problem with that. That said, someone did a little analysis and found an interesting correlation between parking violations and corruption in the diplomat’s country…

  11. Angus99 says:

    Perhaps it’s time to create a position of “Designated Adult” in the airport management and airport law enforcement hierarchy.

    I fly through Dulles all the time, and this does not surprise me one bit.

  12. Mcshonky says:

    Funny thing is this was an international airport theoretically used to seeing foreign military officials. One would think it would take 10 minutes and a couple of calls to straighten out with the Pakistan embassy and the Pentagon.

    But I’m sure they’re taking it seriously.

    • banndndc says:

      you’d think that but sadly no. a family friend of mine who works for a US Embassy was detained and questioned for 8 hours (because of their nationality) at Dulles while on official US Government travel orders.

  13. Foxtrot-Yankee says:

    It seems to me that there’s something missing from this story.

    Why would someone say, “I hope this is my last flight”? Was he not privy to his own itinerary?

    • hypochondriac says:

      Maybe some prior flights got canceled or diverted. So he was hoping this flight would be fine, and dandy.

    • Mr.Grieves says:

      Well a flight coming from Pakistan all the way to Virginia, is a loooooonnng flight that would require many connecting flights to complete. I’m sure these guys have been on nothing but planes for at least 24 hours. Saying “I hope this is the last flight.” is what anyone would say after being subjected to US security.

      • Foxtrot-Yankee says:

        Sorry, I don’t buy it.

        I know how long a flight it is. I understand it may take 2-3 conntections to get to IAD. And I don’t doubt that passport control and customs is a giant pain in the ass, especially if you’re from Pakistan.

        In spite of all of that, saying “”I hope this is the last flight” still doesn’t make any sense. How could you board a flight and not be aware of the rest of your itinerary?

        One might say:

        I hope it’s an easy flight.
        I hope it’s a short flight.
        I hope it’s a flight without delay.

        But I don’t see why any adult would not know if it’s his last fight.

        (BTW, I’m in no way defending United, TSA, Customs, the MWAA cops or anyone who held them for 2.5 hours. That was wrong no matter what. I just think there are facts missing from this story.)

  14. thorcat says:

    So, they got treated like s**t by an American airline? Why are they so mad…they got treated like every other American who flies!

  15. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    Can we blame United when WWIII happens?

    Seriously, this might be a little kerfluffle as far as they are concerned, and they might fire the flight attendant. But this will have SERIOUS repercussions. I hope United goes to hell.

  16. ooeygooey says:

    Can Consumerist make a handy little card that lists all the things I can’t do/say within earshot of the TSA/light attendants? I’m starting to lose track. So far, I have:

    “I hope this is my last flight”
    “Will there be meals served on this flight?”
    something about orange juice
    something about being Jerry Manthey (sp?)
    and no watching video of 9/11

    What am I missing?

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      I second this. There needs to be a list.

      You forgot that you can’t wear a shirt that has Arabic text on it no matter what it actually says.

      • pantheonoutcast says:

        I want to make and sell a T-shirt that says “Will there be meals served on this flight?” in Arabic.

        I’m thinking dark burgundy shirt, gold lettering…

        Anyone want to go halvsies on the production costs?

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      Be careful with any sort of clothing or slogans that make you look like a technical person either.
      I once wore a shirt that said “There are 10 types of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who don’t” and got yanked out for additional patting down at every security screening. This was almost a year after 9/11

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      Be careful with any sort of clothing or slogans that make you look like a technical person either.
      I once wore a shirt that said “There are 10 types of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who don’t” and got yanked out for additional patting down at every security screening. This was almost a year after 9/11

  17. PhilFR says:

    Regardless of what you say, don’t try having too long a last name. My hyphenated last name (18 characters) completely fills the name area of a Southwest boarding pass printed at the airport. This always sends TSA into a tailspin since there’s (gasp) no first name on the ticket. Secondary screening is occasionally necessary, I guess to see if I’m hiding my first name somewhere in my pants.

    (And no, my first name isn’t Dick.) :-)

  18. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    I think they were cheated out of the full TSA experience, no enhanced grope reported. Without the body-cavity search, how can they feel like they’ve experienced America?

  19. stormbird says:

    Um, if this guy was a terrorist planning on hijacking the plane, wouldn’t he _know_ if it was his last flight?

  20. axiomatic says:

    How America ever became a super power is beyond me. This is the dumbest flight attendant ever.

    I propose that we now need something akin to a sky marshal of the flight attendants so whenever one of these events occurs that the flight attendant must discuss the issue with the attendant marshal before stupidity ensues.

  21. sqeelar says:

    Celebrating a merger with Continental?

  22. PhilFR says:

    Let’s hope that was the flight attendant’s “last flight.”

    What’s next, getting busted for saying “this flight can’t end soon enough?”

  23. VouxCroux says:

    I can’t believe that these gentlemen couldn’t even contact their embassy. The rest was dumb enough, but that takes the cake!

  24. banmojo says:

    Radical muslims have done more to damage public perception of the Islamic religion than anything else. Good, decent Muslims should shun/revile radical elements in their faith.

    I view myself as a Christian and whenever I hear about radical pseudoChristians who espouse fear, hatred, untruth –> I want to yell out to the world “These jerks do NOT represent Jesus Christ or what He teaches and in fact they clearly represent satan!!” (as do radical Muslims).

    Proselytizing, teaching, giving living examples of the good things that result from true religious beliefs – THESE are the things true religious people act on.

    Judgement/sentencing/execution – these are things that God alone should do (in reference to religious issues, not social issues like rape/murder) and any zealot who terrorizes in the name of their religion is a BIG FAT LIAR – SATAN IS THEIR GOD AND RELIGION