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Humiliation at 33,000 feet

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    To the applause of fellow passengers, the Jewish designer was escorted from a New York flight as a potential bomber. Humiliation at 33,000 feet: Top British
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 2, 2006
      To the applause of fellow passengers, the Jewish designer was escorted
      from a New York flight as a potential bomber.

      Humiliation at 33,000 feet:
      Top British architect tells of terror 'arrest'
      Sophie Goodchild
      01 October 2006

      Seth Stein is used to jetting around the world to create stylish
      holiday homes for wealthy clients. This means the hip architect is
      familiar with the irritations of heightened airline security
      post-9/11. But not even he could have imagined being mistaken for an
      Islamist terrorist and physically pinned to his seat while aboard an
      American Airlines flight - especially as he has Jewish origins.

      Yet this is what happened when he travelled back from a business trip
      to the Turks and Caicos islands via New York on 22 May. Still
      traumatised by his ordeal, the 47-year-old is furious that the airline
      failed to protect him from the gung-ho actions of an over-zealous
      passenger who claimed to be a police officer. He has now instructed a
      team of top US lawyers to act for him.

      The London-based interiors guru, whose clients have included Peter
      Mandelson and the husband-and-wife design team Suzanne Clements and
      Ignacio Ribeiro, said he felt compelled to speak out to protect other
      innocent travellers from a similar experience.

      "This man could have garrotted me and what was awful was that one or
      two of the passengers went up afterwards to thank him," said Mr Stein.
      He has since been told by airline staff he was targeted because he was
      using an iPod, had used the toilet when he got on the plane and that
      his tan made him appear "Arab".

      "I was terrified but am fortunate in that I was able to contact a
      lawyer. Yet someone else who is not assertive could be left completely

      The incident highlights the increased likelihood of innocent
      passengers being picked on because they are perceived as "suspicious"
      or "foreign-looking", especially following the alleged plot to blow up
      airliners with liquid explosives.

      Earlier this month, a plane from London to Washington DC made an
      emergency landing, escorted by fighters, after passengers alerted crew
      to the behaviour of a female traveller. It later emerged she had
      suffered a panic attack. And in August, two innocent Asian students
      were escorted off a flight from Malaga to Manchester because other
      passengers thought they were terrorists.

      In Mr Stein's case, he was pounced on as the crew and other travellers
      looked on. The drama unfolded less than an hour into the flight. As he
      settled down with a book and a ginger ale, the father-of-three was
      grabbed from behind and held in a head-lock.

      "This guy just told me his name was Michael Wilk, that he was with the
      New York Police Department, that I'd been acting suspiciously and
      should stay calm. I could barely find my voice and couldn't believe it
      was happening," said Mr Stein.

      "He went into my pocket and took out my passport and my iPod. All the
      other passengers were looking concerned." Eventually, cabin crew
      explained that the captain had run a security check on Mr Stein after
      being alerted by the policeman and that this had cleared him. The
      passenger had been asked to go back to his seat before he had
      restrained Mr Stein. When the plane arrived in New York, Mr Stein was
      met by apologetic police officers who offered to fast-track him out of
      the airport.

      Mr Stein said: "The other passengers looked and me and said, 'What did
      you do?' It was so humiliating. The fact is he [the police officer]
      was told I was OK and should have left me alone. The airline had a
      duty of care. I've got to travel to the US soon, but I'm paying an
      extra £500 to travel in business class."

      American Airlines apologised to Mr Stein, who was born in New York,
      but withdrew an initial offer of $2,000 compensation on the grounds it
      would be an admission of liability. In a letter dated 30 May, the
      airline said it had done everything possible to try and protect Mr Stein.

      It read: "Unfortunately, as in any public gathering, there may be
      occasions when a conflict arises between people or when one
      individual's actions bother another... As our crew members may not
      always be witness to the inappropriate acts of a particular passenger,
      there may be a limit to what our crews can do to improve behaviour
      that is perceived as a nuisance."

      In a twist to the story, Mr Stein has since discovered that there is
      only one Michael Wilk on the NYPD's official register of officers, but
      the man retired 25 years ago. Officials have told the architect that
      his assailant may work for another law enforcement agency but have
      refused to say which one.



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