Ordered a Special Meal? This Airline Thinks You Might Be a Terrorist

The security manager for Swiss International Airlines told an audience at Borderpol, a private security conference for border control agencies, that the special meal you order could help profile you as a terrorist.

In-flight meal choices of international passengers could be a potential profiling tool for national authorities, a senior airline manager has told border officials.

Marina Ripa-Braescu, the facilitation and security manager for Swiss International Air Lines, told a conference on border security in Hungary last week that information about pre-ordered meals could be used to help governments find out more about those travelling to the country before they arrive.

For avoidance of doubt,

if they order a Muslim or kosher or vegetarian meal, you already start to know a little bit about that person” Ripa-Braescu said, referring to the halal meals that Muslim passengers can order.

And she isn’t really suggesting that vegetarians are terrorists and probably thinks ordering a kosher meal makes you ‘not a terrorist’ (although this would probably therefore be a good cover strategy).

If you eat shell fish that’s not kosher so you might be a terrorist

Swiss sought to clarify that “it would never hand over such information, but that such data could be “interesting” and of use to authorities.”

That seems disingenuous at best — they may not turn over their PNR data to the Swiss government, but the UK and France already require airlines operating flights into their countries to provide full PNRs to law enforcement.

The US requires this, and not only has access to but archives PNR data. And the EU as a whole has debated the same (and of course the data is already provided to law enforcement following normal warrant procedures).

All passengers will be force-fed non-Halal beef. If they refuse to eat it, they’ll be interrogated on arrival

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Not totally crazy. Ritual cleanliness is important to many suicide/homicide bombers: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2008/03/hair_today_gone_tomorrow.html

    I’d expect that terrorist who intended to die would avoid haram foods. But then I’d expect many practicing Muslims/Jews/etc to order special meals. This strikes me as a signal lost in the noise data problem. I suppose, it might help narrow suspects after an attack, though.

  2. Perhaps what they are saying is that people who do not order vegetarian meals are terrorists since they constantly bring suffering and death to animals??

  3. I hate to sound Trump-ish here (I really really do) but seems perfectly reasonable to me … and why the Trump would you talk about it publicly? Yet another tip for aspiring terrorists.

  4. @Steve I don’t need governments profiling me based on my meal choice without any evidence of any potential wrongdoing. Some people will gladly give up all their civil liberties for the false sense of security. I’m all for airlines verifying identities of passengers etc, but I don’t feel like giving up more of my privacy to governments just because other people are too scared of their own shadow. I can pretty much guarantee no terrorist has ever been caught due to their meal choice and real terrorists will just skip the meal or eat the regular meal to avoid suspicion.

  5. Does asking for spinach ala Popeye in coach mean you get assigned an emergency exit row seat with the leg room, since they know you can open the door?

  6. the 9/11 hijackers flew the routes before the actual attack to learn about the aircraft and crew behaviors. It was said they did not eat/touch the in flight meals at all. Flying first class for 6 hours and not eating/drinking a thing is always suspicious.

  7. Tony wrote: “Flying first class for 6 hours and not eating/drinking a thing is always suspicious.”

    Was this a joke? If not, it’s utter nonsense. I’m sometimes upgraded unexpectedly just before boarding. Since I had no idea I’d get a decent meal on the plane, I occasionally will already have eaten.

    This is just the kind of “conventional wisdom” that’s utterly specious and gets innocent people into needless trouble.

  8. Oh bother, for the gluten free chlld, and allergic to half of the vegetables out there, probably because of GMOs, beef and protein are the way to go. As for what I order, it depends on the airline. I know which flight segments might have tolerable food and which might not. Profile my food choices and the investigators will find that a woman with an eclectic variety of tastes.

    And I often get on board and go straight to sleep, missing the meal for a good six hours. Oh bother to those who try to pigeonhole people and put them into a box to make their predictions. Bah Humbug on that one.

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