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Are Airline Passengers Subject to Racial Profiling?

By Robert Firpo-Cappiello
November 23, 2015
Southwest Jet
Courtesy Southwest Airlines

Have you ever been questioned or asked to de-board a plane because of your physical appearance or the language you speak?

Southwest Airlines is under media scrutiny for two reports last week that it may have singled out passengers who were Muslim or of Middle Eastern background. (In addition, just last night, Southwest diverted a flight because of what it termed “unruly behavior” by three passengers, who appear to have been removed from the flight.)

The two incidents last week happened at Chicago’s Midway airport. On Wednesday night, a Philadelphia man and his friend were reportedly asked by a Southwest gate agent to step out of the boarding process because a fellow passenger said they were fearful of flying with the men because the men spoke Arabic. Believing he had been racially profiled, the Philadelphia man called the police and he and his friend were eventually allowed to board the plane. A second Southwest flight out of Midway was delayed on Wednesday when passengers complained about the behavior of six Middle Eastern men; the men were reportedly removed from the flight.

We have long admired Southwest for its exceptional customer service. And we fully understand that boarding a plane provokes anxiety in many passengers for a wide variety of reasons. It’s too soon to say whether these incidents represent a new trend for Southwest (or, for that matter, U.S. carriers in general), but we feel that bringing them to light and discussing them openly is essential to keeping air travel accessible to our audience.

TALK TO US! In your travels, have you ever been treated differently because of your physical appearance or the language you speak?

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Inspiration

If You Could Ring In The New Year Anywhere, Where Would It Be?

We recently asked several of our staff members to share the places they'd love to celebrate New Year's Eve—here's what they said. "A sleigh ride dinner in the Colorado Rockies under a canopy of stars with my wife and daughters." —Robert Firpo-Cappiello, Executive Editor "London. I'm in awe of photos and videos of the fireworks along the Thames, with Big Ben clanging and the London Eye right in the middle of it all." —Jamie Beckman, Senior Editor "New Year's Eve in Hawaii was always a great time. I'd love to be back celebrating and watching the fireworks on the beach with my friends again." —Kaeli Conforti, Digital Editor "I'm so excited. I'll be in Sydney to celebrate 2016!" —Jennifer O'Brien, Marketing Manager "Brazil. I was told there are huge beach parties and everyone wears white and dances all night. Sounds amazing!" —Rosalie Tinelli, Marketing Associate "Caye Caulker, Belize. I want to bring in the new year with a warm breeze and a cold drink!" —Amy Lundeen, Photo Director "Christmas Island. Rumor has it this Pacific isle is the first place in the world to ring in the new year because of its GMT + 14-hour time zone!" —Whitney Tressel, Photo Editor "In Cambridge, England, with my dear friends, punting on the River Cam and passing under the Bridge of Sighs at the stroke of midnight." —Chalkley Calderwood, Creative Director "Orpheus Island on the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia." —Maureen Kelley Stewart, Advertising Account Manager "Watching the Northern Lights from inside a glass igloo in Finnish Lapland (with a flute of champagne!) —Amy Mironov, Media Relations "Paris. Watching the fireworks on the Champs-Élysées with a glass of champagne." —Elaine Alimonti, President, Publisher "Copenhagen, Tivoli Gardens. It's all about the lights!" —Jo Neese, Neese & Lee Media "Champagne in hand, sky full of stars, floating on a private sailboat somewhere in the South Pacific." —Cathy Allendorf, Director of Digital Media Now it's your turn: We want to know, if you could ring in the New Year anywhere on earth, where would it be? Share it below!

Inspiration

Easy & Affordable Caribbean Escapes!

Hurricane season ends on November 30, and early December is a great time to grab bargains in the Caribbean, before the holiday and winter crowds descend, driving up prices. Here, some tips for booking your pre-holiday escape and some money-saving tips that will last all winter long. NASSAU, BAHAMAS: Ready for conch fritters and a beautiful beach? A family of four traveling to Nassau in early December can expect to pay around $1,700 for round-trip airfare and three nights at a nice hotel on Paradise Island. The same family trying to book a comparable deal in February could end up easily paying 50 percent more! (BT's Digital Editor, Kaeli Conforti, just got back from a wonderful weekend escape to Nassau and shared it in Three-Day Weekend: Nassau & Paradise Island.) CURACAO: If you're the impulsive type, we’re especially fond of JetBlue Getaways, which can often be a bit last-minute. You may have to book it within a day or two, but you’ll have till, say, January to travel. JetBlue's Curacao vacation packages start at under $700 per person for airfare and three nights' accommodations at a cushy resort. GUADELUPE ISLANDS AND MARTINIQUE. Norwegian Air Shuttle is offering $99 one-way airfare to the French Caribbean! Nab a flight to the perfect beaches, beautiful volcanic mountains, lush rainforests, and unique cuisine of Guadelupe and Martinique. Norwegian Air Shuttle is making waves with super-discounted airfares, but of course availability is limited and seats go fast—check Norwegian.com regularly and be flexible with your travel dates.

Inspiration

The Ultimate Obsessive Foodie's Guide to the Caribbean

While dishes like conch fritters and coconut shrimp have come to represent the region on the world stage, these old stand-bys barely scratch the surface of the unique (and underrated) eats available here. In fact, there are nearly as many hyperlocal takes on Caribbean cooking as there are islands—and delicious fish—in the sea. Here, an island-by-island guide to the delicacies that have our mouths watering this cruise season. Dominican Republic Don’t expect light beach fare from this tropical destination. The Dominican take on Creole cooking, with influences from as far and wide as Africa, Spain, and the Middle East, is a remarkably hearty affair. For proof, look no further than the typical breakfast los tres golpes (or “the three strikes”), which includes fried cheese, fried salami, and fried eggs, plus a heaping scoop of mangú (mashed, boiled green plantains). And if you somehow have room for lunch, the iconic la bandera (“the flag”) is comprised of stewed meats, red beans, white rice, and fried green plantains. Just try going back to work without taking a nap first. BE SURE TO ORDER: Sancocho de siete carnes, a stick-to-your-ribs stew of seven meats, including sausage, chicken, beef, pork, and goat, plus an assortment of vegetables, such as corn on the cob, green plantains, yam, pumpkin, taro, and cassava. The finished product, which is thought to be an excellent hangover cure, is served with white rice and sliced avocados. WHERE TO TRY IT: Travesías, housed in a quaint baby-blue cottage with a sprawling bright-white porch (Avenida Abraham Lincoln 617, sancocho artesanal siete carnes $9). The Bahamas The Bahamas is comprised of more than 700 islands and coral reef cays, so it’s only natural that the cuisine here would have a particularly strong link to the sea. Most staple dishes offer well-spiced but simple preparations of locally caught seafood like grouper, conch, and spiny lobster. And at just 50 miles from the coast of Florida, the country also shares a culinary heritage with the American South. Take, for example, the popular johnnycake, an all-purpose bread that calls to mind the cornbread you’ll find beside most soul food meals. BE SURE TO ORDER: Cracked conch (pronounced “konk,” if you please) with peas ‘n’ rice. The mild white flesh of the iconic sea snail is pounded and then deep-fried into a cutlet and served with an extremely popular side dish of white rice cooked with pigeon peas, salt pork, thyme, and tomato paste. It’s just one of the many ways you’ll find conch on menus, including in chowders, fritters, simply grilled, or cured in a ceviche-like salad. WHERE TO TRY IT: Goldie’s Conch House, which has been an area institution for more than 25 years (Arawak Cay, cracked conch with rice $15). Aruba Dutch culture looms large in the ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao, which together with St. Maarten, Saba, and St. Eustatius, comprise the Kingdom of the Netherlands. You’ll see this link in the colorful gabled roofs in Oranjestad, Aruba, and Willemstad, Curaçao, and the annual celebration of Queen’s Day (expect lots of orange to celebrate the House of Orange-Nassau). But the Dutch connection is perhaps strongest on the islands’ menus, where you’ll find snacks like bitterballen (fried meaty croquettes) and frikandel (deep-fried sausage)—plus more exotic dishes from former Dutch colonies, such as Indonesian fried rice, or nasi goreng. BE SURE TO ORDER: Keshi yena, which is made by stuffing leftover gouda or edam rinds with meat (chicken, beef, shrimp, or fish), flavored with raisins, grated cheese, olives, and capers. The dish dates back to the Dutch colonial era, when slaves would gather scraps—such as the seemingly unusable cheese rinds—and come up with clever ways to prepare them as a means of survival. WHERE TO TRY IT: The Old Cunucu House, which occupies a traditional farmhouse that dates back more than 150 years (Palm Beach 150, keshi yena $11). Turks and Caicos Unlike lush, verdant neighbors like Jamaica and Cuba, the Turks and Caicos is made up of 40 islands and cays that are arid, sandy, and tiny—perfect for a beach getaway, sure, but not ideal for agriculture. Aside from a few exceptions, such as drought-resistant corn, sea grapes, tamarind, and sugar apples, the cuisine in these parts skews heavily toward the spoils of the surrounding seas, with menus featuring wahoo, grouper, snapper, tuna, and dolphin (the fish, not the mammal!). And it’s no coincidence that the flag of the Turks and Caicos prominently features both a conch and a spiny lobster: They’re two of the island’s tastiest and most prized delicacies (and exports). BE SURE TO ORDER: Spiny lobster, a clawless tropical variety that’s called crawfish by locals. Only legally available in-season from August through March, the prized crustacean is best served simply grilled. WHERE TO TRY IT: Coyaba Restaurant, where lobster is featured in a number of haute creations, like a bisque with sherry and aged rum and lobster thermidor in a dijon-sherry cream sauce (Caribbean Paradise Inn, Grace Bay, Providenciales). Jamaica It’s telling that two of the most popular flavorings in Jamaica are Scotch bonnet peppers and allspice: The cheerful-looking chiles can be almost 150 times hotter than jalapeños, while allspice (the dried berries of the pimento tree) is so aromatic that many home cooks assume that it’s actually a blend of clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In a word, Jamaican cooking is bold, with iconic dishes borrowed from its many immigrant groups: from Spanish Jews, vinegary escovitched fish; from Indians, curried goat; from the British, Cornish pasty–inspired patties; and from West Africans, the lychee-like fruit ackee, which is cooked alongside saltfish to make the island’s most iconic breakfast. BE SURE TO ORDER: Jerk chicken, which gets its fiery and complex flavors from fresh ginger, thyme, scallions, Scotch bonnet peppers, and allspice. In the authentic Jamaican version, the chicken is cooked over the aromatic smoke of burning pimento wood—a practice that dates back to the native Taínos. The jerk style was born when escaped slaves, or Maroons, retreated into the forest and taught the indigenous tribes their method of smoking meat over pits dug into the earth. WHERE TO TRY IT: The Boston Jerk Center in Boston Bay, widely considered the capital and birthplace of jerk (Boston Bay, Portland Parish). Barbados Perhaps the only cultural icon from Barbados more famous than Rihanna is the flying fish—a remarkable species that uses its wing-like fins to propel through the air at distances up to a whopping 1,300 feet. In fact, the island often gets called the Land of the Flying Fish. But it’s not the only species hauled in from the warm waters surrounding the island, which are teeming with game fish, such as marlin, tuna, shark, and mahi-mahi. While much of Bajan cuisine is influenced by rich Indian and African flavors, perhaps the best way to appreciate the sea’s bounty is also the simplest: The cutter is a humble sandwich of deep-fried fish on crusty Bajan salt bread, topped with lettuce, tomato, and pepper sauce. BE SURE TO ORDER: Flying fish and cou cou (made with cornmeal and okra), the national dish—which, not coincidentally, was once namechecked in a Rihanna song. Now often served with a tomato-based creole sauce, the cou cou was once a staple food for African slaves and is still a popular dish throughout the Caribbean. WHERE TO TRY IT: Brown Sugar, a restaurant set in an old home, filled with lush ferns and colorful murals (Aquatic Gap, St. Michaels, flying fish and cou cou $11.50). Trinidad and Tobago The culinary melting pot in this two-island nation skews decidedly East Indian, a holdover of the indentured Indian servants who streamed into the British Imperial colonies starting in the 1840s to provide plantation owners cheap labor in the post-abolition era. These days, more than 35 percent of the population can trace their roots to the Subcontinent—greater than any other ethnicity—which accounts for the intensely aromatic flavors found in dishes like curried goat and roti (flatbread-wrapped sandwiches). BE SURE TO ORDER: Doubles, an inexpensive street food made by filling light, chewy bara (fried flatbread, tinged yellow with turmeric) with channa (curried chickpeas), topped with cucumbers, pepper sauce, mango chutney, and tangy tamarind. Often eaten for breakfast and sold from humble carts, the local spin on the Punjabi chole bhature got its descriptive name when customers in the 1930s demanded that the sandwich’s creator double up on the deliciously crisp bara. WHERE TO TRY IT: Any of the unassuming food carts in the southern Trinidad town of Debe, which many consider to be the capital of doubles. Puerto Rico Perhaps no food better represents Puerto Rico than sofrito, a paste made by frying onions, garlic, green peppers, sweet ají dulce chiles, cilantro, and a local herb called culantro or recao in olive oil or lard. Much like this flavor-packed ingredient, which forms the backbone of many of the island’s most famous dishes, local cocina criolla (Creole cooking) was born by slowly melding together centuries of disparate culinary influences, including West African, Spanish, American, and indigenous Taíno. You can thank this last group for lechón asado (the island’s famed slow-roasted pork), not to mention the term “barbe-cue,” based on their word barabicu, or “sacred fire pit.” BE SURE TO ORDER: Mofongo, made by mashing green plantains with garlic and chicharrones (deep-fried pork rinds). Thought to be a Caribbean update on the doughy African staple fufu, the dish is traditionally prepared with a wooden mortar and pestle, or pilón, which traces its roots to the Taínos. The starchy base can then be eaten as a side or stuffed with a protein to become mofongo relleno, at which point it is often doused in a tomato-based salsa criolla. WHERE TO TRY IT: Café Puerto Rico, where the mofongo relleno can be ordered with a range of different bases (yuca or green or sweet plantains) and fillings, including crab, salt cod, grouper, or shrimp (208 Calle O’Donnell, mofongo relleno from $10).

Inspiration

Three-Day Weekend: Nassau & Paradise Island

My hands are shaking and my knees are weak; I'm not in love, I'm climbing the steps of the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort's Mayan Temple, ever so slowly approaching the entrance to Leap of Faith, the largest, steepest water slide I've ever been on. Not only that, this seven-story slide will take me through the Mayan Temple Shark Lagoon—a large aquarium full of Caribbean reef sharks. Gulp. I've spent most of the morning chatting with people who have just been on the impressive-looking slide, trying really hard to talk myself into it. By the afternoon, I've rationalized everything—the drop, the angle, the speed—and am finally ready to take the plunge. And then I find out there's another, easier way to see the sharks up close: another Mayan Temple attraction called the Serpent Slide that doesn't involve a terrifying drop down a 60-foot tall almost-vertical body slide, but rather a fun ride on an inner tube that ends in a large, clear tunnel, slowly taking you through the shark-filled aquarium. So, yes, I may have totally chickened out on the big slide, but at least this way I was able to glide past the giant sharks, and believe me, that was terrifying enough! Don't have enough time to visit all 700+ islands of the Bahamas? Start with New Providence Island, home to Nassau, Paradise Island, and enough beaches and Bahamian culture to satisfy every foodie and history buff in your arsenal. Plus, the U.S. Dollar is on par with the Bahamian Dollar, so you don't have to worry about the exchange rate, and the locals are super-friendly. What's not to love? Experience all the perks of the Atlantis Resort—for less! We've all seen photos of the iconic pink towers of the Atlantis Resort's Royal Towers, but did you know there's a way to experience all the perks of the resort without actually ponying up the big bucks to stay there? The secret: stay next door at Comfort Suites Paradise Island (from $130 in early December). Not only will your nightly rate give you complimentary Wi-Fi and daily breakfast, it also includes day passes to Atlantis, which normally run $150 per person, for free. Spend the day taking on the water slides in more than 20 swimming areas and 11 themed pools, lounging on white-sand beaches, or feasting at the one of the resort's fine dining restaurants, then unwind by the pool and bar at Comfort Suites Paradise Island if you need a break from all the excitement. Don't miss the Lazy River Rapids (which feel like they're part lazy river, part wave pool!) and of course, the legendary water slides of the Mayan Temple that let you float or slide through an aquarium tank full of Caribbean reef sharks! Note: It's also worth checking for flash sales on the Atlantis Resort website for extra savings if you really want to stay on the property; rates at the resort's Coral Towers start at $170 per night in early December. Enjoy tasty Bahamian fare—conch fritters, anyone? Don't miss the Bites of Nassau Food Tour a three-hour food tasting and cultural walking tour through the colorful streets of Downtown Nassau, with stops at six local restaurants and specialty shops—like an artisanal chocolate tasting at the Graycliff Beer Garden & Chocolatier or a lesson in local Bahamian herbs and spices that will change the way you look at medicine the next time you have a cold (curry spices are used in cooking to treat inflammation and coughs, who knew?). You'll also stop at Van Breugel's Bistro & Bar for Caribbean fusion dishes; Bahamian Cookin' Restaurant & Bar, where the locals go for traditional eats; Athena's Cafe, the island's oldest Greek restaurant; and the Tortuga Rum Cake Company to taste flavored rum cakes that are baked daily with five-year aged rum (from $69 per adult, $49 for children ages 12 and under, children under 3 are free). For a fun, super-authentic dining experience, check out the Fish Fry at Arawak Cay, a collection of small, local restaurants just outside Downtown Nassau where you can sample Bahamian favorites like cracked conch (pronounced "conk" by the way) and Sky Juice, a milky-white concoction made with gin, coconut water, sweet milk, cinnamon, sugar, and fresh nutmeg. A number of locals I spoke to recommended Oh Andros as their favorite spot for food in Arawak Cay and Twin Brothers for the best daiquiri cocktails. I concur. Visit Fort Charlotte, The Queen's Staircase, and a Pirate Museum! History buffs will love exploring Nassau's old forts, originally built to protect the island from invaders, but luckily, none has ever had to be used in battle. Fort Charlotte is about a five-minute walk from Downtown Nassau and features displays of how the complex was built and what it was like to be stationed there in the 17th century (spoiler alert: it wasn't easy!) Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors, $2 for children ages 6-12, ages five and under get in free. Closer to Downtown, Fort Fincastle sits at the top of Bennet's Hill overlooking the city. To reach it, climb the Queen's Staircase, a 102-foot tall staircase built by slaves in the late-1700s and later named in honor of Queen Victoria, who is credited with abolishing slavery in 1837—or do what I did and take a taxi to Fort Fincastle and make your way down the Queen's Staircase instead (admission is free for both sites). Pirate lovers will want to visit the Pirates of Nassau Museum, home to an interactive pirate attraction that feels like you've become part of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride—keep an eye out for the pirate ship Revenge and get your close up of Blackbeard himself ($13 for adults, $6.50 for children ages 4-17). See the Straw Markets Brush up on your negotiating skills and pick up some locally-made handicrafts from the Straw Market on Bay Street in Downtown Nassau, a great place to find hand-woven straw bags, hats, and other Bahamian crafts and souvenirs for your friends back home. Smaller straw markets are also located on Paradise Island and in the Cable Beach resort area about a 20-minute drive from Nassau. Go beyond Downtown Nassau If you plan on renting a car to discover the rest of New Providence Island, keep in mind that everyone drives on the left in the Bahamas, so proceed with caution, especially if you're not used to it. I opted for taxis, a great option if you're traveling with a group, or an easy 10-minute water taxi ride to get between Paradise Island and Downtown Nassau ($4 one way, $8 round-trip, every half hour). Another option, especially if you're staying along Cable Beach or areas west, is to hop a ride on the jitneys into and out of Downtown Nassau, a great way to chat with locals who are doing the same thing (each ride is about $1.50). For a nice, quiet stay in Paradise Island, head east and try the Best Western Plus Bay View Suites for a relaxing romantic getaway. It's a five-minute walk to the nearest beach, and also a great option for large or multi-generational families traveling together who might need more space (from $160 per night). Explore the hidden gems of Paradise Island Tucked away on the eastern end of Paradise Island about a 15-minute walk from the Atlantis Resort area, you'll find Versailles Gardens, a lovely, terraced, European-style garden modeled after its namesake in France. The Versailles Gardens are located on part of the One & Only Ocean Club's property along Paradise Island Drive, but are free and open to the public 24/7, and as you can imagine, a popular spot for photos and weddings. You'll also find the remains of an original 14th-century French Cloister across the street that's part of the complex, purchased by William Randolph Hearst and later by Huntington Hartford, who brought it with him to the Bahamas. The best part: it's closer than you think I was surprised how fast the flight was from JFK, a mere 2.5 hours! Catch a nonstop flight on JetBlue from JFK, Boston, Orlando, Washington National, or Fort Lauderdale; fly on United for nonstop flights from Chicago, Houston, and Newark; SouthWest Airlines for nonstop flights from Baltimore; American Airlines for nonstop flights from Miami, Philadelphia, and Charlotte; Delta for nonstop flights from JFK and Atlanta; or Bahamasair for nonstop flights from Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Keep an eye out for flash sales by following your favorite airline on social media or signing up for their email newsletters so the deals come straight to your inbox.

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