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Author Topic: Oops - Profiling Blunder Costs $400 Large
Irish
Post Captain
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Flier gets $400g in jet flap: Crew mistook him for terrorist
By Laurel J. Sweet
Monday, January 15, 2007 - Updated: 02:55 AM EST

In what’s being hailed as a landmark post-9/11 verdict, a Boston jury has ordered American Airlines [AMR] to pay a computer consultant $400,000 for suspecting him of being a Middle Eastern terrorist.

“They thought they could walk into that courtroom and say, ‘Security! Security!’ and make themselves above the law. The jury said they couldn’t,” John Cerqueira, 39, born in Portugal and raised in Fall River, said yesterday from his home in Miami.

While other alleged victims of racial profiling have struck out-of-court deals, Boston attorney David Godkin said Cerqueira’s civil rights case is the first of its kind since Sept. 11, 2001, to reach trial.

Godkin posed the following question to jurors: “Imagine if our client had been a middle-aged blond woman. Would the same thing have happened?”

State police removed Cerqueira from Florida-bound Flight 2237 on Dec. 28, 2003, along with two Israeli men seated next to him in coach, because they were frightening the flight crew preparing for takeoff from Logan International Airport.

An incident report from the event signed by AA Capt. John Ehlers, which the Herald obtained yesterday, explains, “3 PAX (passengers) sitting in row 20 (seats) DEF observed by F/As (flight attendants) & cockpit crew as making inappropriate, suspicious comments in boarding area & on board aircraft. Seemed to be foreign nationals. Overheard wishing other PAX ‘Happy New Year.’ ”

Cerqueira - who was released after two hours of questioning, but refused alternative travel accommodations by American - said his seatmates were “loud” and slipping in and out of English, but, “I had never met them before. All I did was go to the bathroom, use my computer and fall asleep.”

An attorney for American Airlines could not be reached for comment yesterday. The carrier lost two jets and the lives of 129 passengers and 17 crew members to Middle East terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001, including Flight 11, hijacked out of Logan and crashed into New York’s World Trade Center.

Late Friday, a federal jury decided American Airlines was wrong to take the precautionary measure of having Cerqueira deplaned and awarded him $130,000 in compensatory damages and $270,000 in punitive damages.

“I do realize Sept. 11 weighs hard on our consciences and everyone is interested in better safe than sorry,” Cerqueira said, “but if they had just put me on another plane, none of this would have happened.”

Posts: 1634 | From: Hampton, NH  |  IP: Logged
DC9
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There goes what was left of Captain's authority! [Mad]
Posts: 378 | From: savannah,ga.usa  |  IP: Logged
Gumby
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quote:
Originally posted by DC9:
There goes what was left of Captain's authority! [Mad]

DC9,

I don't think this was a Captain's authority issue. It is about how it was handled after no threat was determined.

As the man said:“I do realize Sept. 11 weighs hard on our consciences and everyone is interested in better safe than sorry,” Cerqueira said, “but if they had just put me on another plane, none of this would have happened.”

AA went out of the way to further punish this man who had done nothing wrong and was a frequent flyer. AA should have suffered more for their arrogance and lack of customer service.

Gumby

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ernieh
Post Captain
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I agree. This had nothing to do with Captains authority. It's simply another example of AA living up to it's corporate motto:

"WE KNOW WHY YOU FLY, WE JUST DON'T CARE"

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Bob Ritchie
Post Captain
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O.K. guys,

Next time your family is on one of my AA flights and someone says and does things that scare the crap out of my other passengers and my flight attendants and I have reason to believe that they might pose a security risk....

.....I'll just call off sick but advise the replacement captain that there is "nothing to worry about!"

After all....whacko clerics can scream Allah is great; pray loudly in the boarding area. praise Sadam, curse the USA, spread out all over the cabin, ask for seatbelt extensions and stow them under their seats, terrify the passengers....and that is their right. No reason for a captain to use their learned judgement.

Different situation I know but....it is crazy out there....and the captains must be allowed to exercise their best judgement.

Bob Ritchie

Posts: 1936 | From: Warren County, Missouri  |  IP: Logged
Gumby
Post Captain
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quote:
Originally posted by Bob Ritchie:
O.K. guys,

Next time your family is on one of my AA flights and someone says and does things that scare the crap out of my other passengers and my flight attendants and I have reason to believe that they might pose a security risk....

....it is crazy out there....and the captains must be allowed to exercise their best judgement.

Bob Ritchie

Bob,

Again, I'll say this had nothing to do with captain's authority. When it was determined the gentleman was not involved (I still don't know how the FAs mistook Hebrew for Arabic. Guess they need to fly out of New York more often.), it had to do with the aftermath. All the guy wanted was to continue on his way. They(AA) seemed to go out of their way to screw with him. Of course, after the lawyers told him how stressed he was.

Gumby

Posts: 522 | From: Litchfield, Ohio  |  IP: Logged
Irish
Post Captain
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I've got to agree with the other guys, Bob. Captain's authority was never an issue here. The captain did not like the situation and had the pax removed. End of captain's authority question.

Where the pooch got screwed was when Mr. Cerqueira was interrogated and cleared and was then denied alternative transport to his destination. That decision was wrong and cost AA $400 grand.

Paul

Posts: 1634 | From: Hampton, NH  |  IP: Logged
Bob Ritchie
Post Captain
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Paul and John,

I agree with both of you and understand your point. However; what is clear to me is that.....when a captain makes a decision;which ultimately results in costing our airline $400,000.00....rest assured that there will be pressure brought upon captains "not remove passengers"; even those whom the captain feels may be a security threat. AA doesn't like expensive lawsuits; as a result of "captains authority."

AA has a lengthy process; which the requires the involvement of a number of persons before a passenger is removed. The intent is to prevent the removal or make it very difficult.

I recently dealt with such an issue in SFO. The station manager, the lead agent and even the AA MOD(System Manager on Duty) were afraid to make the proper decision.

Finally after listening to all of their concerns.....I did the right thing and removed a passenger; who had no business remaining on my flight.

I never heard a word about it. As it should be. But....my decision didn't cost the company $400.000.00 either!

Fly safe,

Bob

Posts: 1936 | From: Warren County, Missouri  |  IP: Logged
Irish
Post Captain
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quote:
Late Friday, a federal jury decided American Airlines was wrong to take the precautionary measure of having Cerqueira deplaned and awarded him $130,000 in compensatory damages and $270,000 in punitive damages.

I also understand your point, Bob. The quoted comment puts the whole burden on the captain and we all know the reality of management-employee relations. It's a lousy world out there!

Paul

Posts: 1634 | From: Hampton, NH  |  IP: Logged
PERCEPTION22
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Sorry to be entering this topic a bit late - had not heard of this incident - but I am a little confused:

I question the phrase "making inappropriate, suspicious comments in boarding area & on board aircraft. Seemed to be foreign nationals. Overheard wishing other PAX ‘Happy New Year.’”

WHAT inappropriate, suspicious comments? - If "Happy New Year" is one of them, then to state same on Dec 28th is certainly "calendar-wise", no? Also, Israeli nationals "slipping in and out of English" - either among themselves or with others - is certainly not suspicious / unusual?. Many of my German relatives (including my mother) were frequently guilty of speaking in "aufgemixte pickles" - variable use of two languages and often those interchanged within the same sentence. It's just the way people think / communicate.

And Cerqueira - obviously by listed name and (likely) appearance a born Hispanic - could not be distinguished from an ARAB?

Also note that the original news story states that he (Cerqueira) "refused alternative travel accomodations by American", however an included quote by Cerqueira states "if they had just put me on another plane, none of this would have happened.”

???

Sounds to me like a knee-jerk reaction by AA - and an exaggerated and misrepresented news story by the "Don't you dare to even appear to insult any Arabs" News Media...

[ 03-08-2007, 11:36: Message edited by: PERCEPTION22 ]

Posts: 14 | From: Upstate NY  |  IP: Logged


 
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