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Passengers: Pilot promotes faith on flight

CNN, USA
Feb. 9, 2004
www.cnn.com

ReligionNewsBlog.com • Tuesday February 10, 2004

NEW YORK (CNN) — A pilot asked passengers on an American Airlines flight to identify themselves as Christians, calling those who aren’t “crazy,” some of the passengers said Monday.

The airline is investigating reports about the incident onboard Flight 34 from Los Angeles, California, to New York on Friday, a company spokesman said.

In a statement, the airline said, “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.”

Passenger Jen Dorsey told CNN’s “American Morning,” “We were just at the beginning of our flight. The pilot came on to greet everyone and give his comments for the morning, and he said he’d recently been on a mission trip, and he’d like all the Christians to please raise their hands.”

Fellow passenger Karla Austin said, “He said, ‘If you are a Christian, raise your hand.’ He said, ‘If you are not, you’re crazy.’”

Dorsey nodded her head in agreement that the pilot had used the word “crazy.”

No passengers raised their hands, Austin said.

The pilot asked passengers to look around at each other and use their 4 1/2-hour flight wisely or “just sit back and watch the movie,” Dorsey recalled.

Austin said passengers were shocked. Some reached for their mobile phones and others used the on-flight phones, she said.

“Just given the history of what’s happened on planes in this country, anything can happen at this point, ” Austin said. “So we weren’t sure if something was going to happen at takeoff, if he was going to wait until JFK [John F. Kennedy Airport] to do something. But there was definitely implication there that we felt that something was going to happen.”

Passengers complained to the flight attendants, who relayed their concerns to the cockpit, and then reassured them they had no nothing to worry about on the flight, Austin said.

Attendants also told passengers they had contacted airline officials about the matter and that the purser was talking to the pilot, she said.

About 45 minutes into the flight, the pilot came back on and apologized — but his apology focused on the crew, not the passengers, Dorsey said.

“He came on and said, ‘I want to apologize for my comments earlier. I think I really threw the flight crew off a little bit, and they are getting a lot of flack for the things I said. So I want to apologize to my flight crew,’ ” she said.

On her way off the plane, Austin said she told the pilot “he should be ashamed of himself.”

“He just nodded and looked to the ground, and that was it,” she said.

Airline spokesman Tim Kincaid said Sunday the pilot recently had returned from a mission trip to Costa Rica. If an investigation proves the allegations true, the incident “would be against our policy,” the spokesman said.

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