U.S. Pilot Browbeats
on Plane's P.A. System
The Associated Press
February 7, 2004
New York (AP) -- An American Airlines pilot flying passengers to New York asked Christians on board to identify themselves and suggested the non-Christians discuss the faith with them, a spokesman for the airline said Saturday.
Flight 34 was headed from Los Angeles to John F. Kennedy Airport on Friday afternoon, said spokesman Tim Wagner. The pilot, whose identity was not released, had been making flight announcements and then asked that the Christians on board raise their hands, Wagner said.
The pilot told the airline that he then suggested the other passengers use the flight time to talk to the identified Christians about their faith, Wagner said.
The pilot later told passengers he would be available at the end of the flight to talk about his first announcement.
Wagner said the airline was investigating the incident, and that the company had guidelines about appropriate behavior. He said the pilot had just returned to work from a week-long mission trip to Costa Rica.
"It falls along the lines of a personal level of sharing that may not be appropriate for one of our employees to do while on the job," Wagner said.
According to witnesses, the pilot of Los Angeles to New York Flight 34 last Friday used the plane's public address system and asked passengers to "raise their hands if they were Christian." He then said, "Everyone who doesn't have their hand raised is crazy ... Well you have a choice: You can make this trip worthwhile, or you can sit back, read a book and watch the movie."
Flight attendants were so concerned that they contacted ground control, and had to assure passengers that they were not in immediate danger. Press reports, including a story in the NY Daily News said that passengers were "frantic," and feared that the pilot "might have some sinister plans for the flight."
The pilot had reportedly just returned from a missionary trip to Costa Rica. American Airlines says that the company has guidelines about "inappropriate behavior" and is looking into the incident.