Unruly Passengers Disrupt Northwest Flight 243

Yet another incident aboard Flight 243 from Amsterdam to Detroit.

Sources tell Fox 2 that a flight from Amsterdam into Detroit Metropolitan Airport was held on the tarmac after landing because of unruly behavior by some of the passengers.The source says four men from Saudi Arabia were saying something in Arabic that alarmed four on-board Federal Air Marshals. The Marshals speak Arabic. A decision was made to stop the plane on the tarmac away from the passenger terminal and remove the men from the plane. Once the men were removed, the rest of passengers were then taken to the terminal for deboarding.

The Transportation Security Administration says the unruly passengers were interviewed by Customs and Border Protection officials. But the TSA says the passengers were released and no arrests were made.

Delta Air Lines spokeswoman Susan Elliott says the crew of Northwest Flight 243 requested that authorities meet the plane Tuesday after it landed because four passengers didn’t follow their instructions. She says nobody was injured but wouldn’t describe what the passengers were doing.

The first order of business is to change the flight number. After the attempted Christmas terrorist attack, passengers and crew on subsequent iterations of that flight have been understandably jumpy. But while extra vigilance is good up to a point, the modal result will be to have people freaking out any time a passenger or passengers who “look Muslim” do anything that could be deemed remotely suspicious.

That said, in this case, the fact that it was Federal Air Marshals makes me think there was at least reasonable suspicion that something was awry.  It’s almost certainly a case of better safe than sorry.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Franklin says:

    It’s interesting that there were FOUR air marshals on board. I’ll await judgment until I hear what was said.

    In general, I think people are jumpy, with gross exaggerations of what any Arabic person does on a flight floating around the Internet. Search for Tedd Petruna on snopes.com if you haven’t already received that e-mail from your crazy uncle.

  2. Fausta says:

    Yup, if four Arabic-speaking air marshals were alarmed by what they heard, I’ll say that’s reason enough to remove them from the plane. Oh, yes.

  3. RWB says:

    It is more interesting that the four air marshals spoke Arabic. All other coverage of the story just said the passengers were unruly and were not following orders. This is a more likely scenario than the bi-lingual marshal team.

    Does anyone know if we actually have ANY air marshals that speak Arabic.

  4. RWB says:

    Here is a later ( updated ) report from the same fox station – no more Arabic speaking marshals in this one:


  5. Richard Gardner says:

    Minor point, the attempted bombing was on NW flight 253, not 243. Looking at the NWA flight schedule for AMS to DTT I see 2 direct flights, 253 departing AMS at 8:40 AM, and 243 departing at 10:30AM.

    I’d be very surprised if the TSA routinely puts scare Arabic speakers together on the same plane (I’m assuming they are scarce and get a language bonus).

  6. Louise says:

    From Amsterdam again. And Geert Wilders is being hauled before a Dutch court later this month for speaking the truth. Go figure.

  7. Rob says:

    Why were these characters released? If Arabs on a US-bound flight act in a manner such that air marshals and cabin crew are alarmed, they’re up to something (which may simply be to rub our noses in the terrorist threat).

    No foreigner is guaranteed entry to this country. Who does/doesn’t get in is entirely up to the US. These characters should have been released only to get on a plane back to Saudi Arabia (with a stern warning that shenanigans won’t be tolerated).

  8. Franklin says:

    From Amsterdam again. And Geert Wilders is being hauled before a Dutch court later this month for speaking the truth. Go figure.

    I don’t know all the specifics, but that guy jumps out of his shoes anytime he hears someone speaking Arabic or sees someone wearing a headscarf. While I certainly wouldn’t want to live under Islamic rules, that’s what happens in a democracy when one group outbreeds other groups.