Four people who appeared to be “of Middle Eastern descent” were removed from a Spirit Airlines flight from Baltimore to Chicago on Tuesday morning for alleged “suspicious activity.”
According to the Chicago Tribune, the activity in question consisted of watching a news broadcast on a mobile device. The four people were released after questioning by police.
Sgt. Jonathan Green of the Maryland Transportation Authority told the Baltimore Sun that a female passenger became alarmed and reported the four individuals to flight crew members.
“Everything added up to create a situation where she felt concerned,” said Green. “Everything was done in the interest of safety.”
The flight had been taxiing to the runway when the woman became alarmed. The flight crew deemed it best to return to the gate and remove the passengers from the plane, turning over the three men and one woman who looked Middle Eastern to authorities for interrogation.
Passenger David Rocca told the AP by phone that security officials boarded the plane at the gate and took the Middle Eastern-looking passengers away.
“They quietly stood up, removed their bags and followed the two officers off the plane,” Rocca said.
The rest of the passengers on Spirit Flight 969 were taken off the plane while all passenger baggage was re-screened by officials. Then, they were allowed to re-board and continue on their way to Chicago, about four hours behind schedule.
“No threat was found,” said Mike England of the TSA in a statement.
“You have no idea, I want to kiss the ground right now,” said passenger Jenna Farella, who told reporters when she arrived in Chicago that the ejected passengers had been seated in her very row.
Tilesha Northern — an attorney from North Carolina — said that it was an instance of “see something, say something.”
“The first people to get called were of Middle Eastern descent,” she said.
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