Criminals On Your Flight

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How do you feel about criminals being transported on your commercial flight? On a return flight from San Juan, Puerto Rico I was sitting in a restaurant when a law enforcement looking man escorting another man who happened to be wearing ankle cuffs shuffled along next to him. My first thought was, ‘gees I hope they aren’t on my flight.’

Criminals On Your Flight

Criminals On Your Flight

It turns out that not only were they on my flight but, that they boarded first which I found a little amusing.  I was a First class passenger traveling with a baby and I was asked to not pre-board (which was only for the elderly and the injured needing more time.) The passenger who was cuffed was now joined by a second escort as they boarded.

Once on board, I waited for the pilot to announce what the situation was with the passenger but, there was no announcement made. My thoughts were swirling; who was this cuffed passenger? What was his crime? Was he violent? Were the men escorting him armed? It seemed like a situation that required a little more information to be given to the non-criminal occupants of the flight. But, no one else seemed to notice or to care.

I ended up casually asking a friendly flight attendant if they transported many cuffed passengers on Delta? He said, “what criminal?” He was a First class flight attendant and had no idea that there was such a passenger on board. He thanked me for mentioning it and went to find out what was going on.

In the end, he came back to tell me that the 2 men escorting the cuffed man were bounty hunters and that the flight attendants in Coach were aware. But, that since they were bounty hunters (not armed) that they didn’t have to clear through any additional protocol on the flight (i.e. notifying the captain, etc.)

Bottom Line

This instance got me thinking about the idea of commercial planes transporting criminals in hand cuffs. How safe is it? Should this be allowed? Should the airlines have to notify you that you will be flying with a cuffed criminal? What about sitting next to a passenger such as this? This time, nothing happened inflight that I was aware of. I did get an eery feeling watching this man board the plane in cuffs and hoped that my kids didn’t notice. There have been incidents in the past where people have been shot in transport of inmates so, there is certainly some danger that is a possibility. See this story reported by NBC News, in ‘Inmate Shot at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.’ In this instance the inmate was shot in the airport waiting for a connecting flight.

What do you think? Have you ever been in a ‘criminals on a plane’ situation like this? Hit the comments.


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About The Weekly Flyer

The Weekly Flyer writes about travel from a business traveler perspective. He travels the world every week accumulating points and miles along the way.

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  1. Shut the f#$@ up you entitled little wanker. No, you’re not entitled to be notified about a Goddamned think. Also f%$# your subtle whine about pre boarding with your f-ing crotch spawn.

  2. I know at least one carrier who frequently has deportees on its flights from JFK to the carribbean. Law Enforcement takes them to the plane, makes sure they get on, but doesnt travel with them. They buy expensive tickets.

    It’s not cost effective to fly criminals private or drive everywhere (sometimes not possible) and why alarm an entire plane when most people aren’t that observant?

  3. As long as their upgrade doesn’t clear in front of mine, I’m not too worried 🙂 I would think the airline has assessed the situation and if they deem it safe, I probably would too.

    @Fred Somebody eat the last bearclaw in your office today??? Seems like a random post to go verbal postal

  4. I find it more disrupting and weird that bounty hunters (private person???) are allowed to handcuff and escort people… Very weird concept. I thought ‘Dog the bounty hunter’ is hollywood 🙂

  5. @DT,

    Dog the Bounty Hunter is “hollywood” on the extreme side of things, but Bounty Hunters do exist and don’t follow the same rules as law enforcement. If they catch someone outside of where they jumped bail, then they have to get him/her back there somehow.


  6. I flew frequently on a certain carrier between HNL & SFO in the 90’s. Frequently there would be a pax in cuffs on the flight being escorted by US Marshal Service. I got friendly with one of the marshals because they stayed in the same hotel as I did. He explained that there was no federal penitentiary in HI and they routinely transported individuals to the closest site on the mainland.

    He also said the pilot was always made aware of the situation because they are armed.

  7. While I’d certainly be curious, I don’t think there’s any obligation to share information with other passengers. The restrainee may not even be, as you assumed, a criminal – i.e., innocent until proven guilty. I expect that you’ve no idea how many sexual predators or other convicted felons you or your kids have sat next to, since they’re not required to announce that fact. And contrary to the movies, a person in shackles with an escort poses a virtually nonexistent threat. And who knows, it could get even more awkward – the next person you see in handcuffs may just be into public b&d…

  8. Don’t hold back, Fred. Tell them how you REALLY feel. This post obviously triggered some PTSD from your own ‘transport’ experience.

  9. What’s a guy in handcuffs and leg shackles gunna do to you anyways?

    I recently was in a doctors office, sitting next to two police officers and a guy in handcuffs. I was definitely interested, I guess, but never felt unsafe. I would probably feel the same on board an aircraft

  10. There are probably more criminals on probation, parole, etc. riding in the plane uncuffed and unaccompanied that should be the basis of your concern. Someone who’s shackled and escorted (especially if by armed law enforcement) is not going to be a threat.

  11. how do you know he was a “criminal”? you said that word MANY TIMES. he could be charged with a crime and not convicted.. You entire post seemed very judgmental, as if the person had ebola or something. “criminals” are human too, and you have no idea, he could have been a white collar crimiminal. You made many assumptions..

  12. Now wasn’t Fred’s post was the perfect way to start off this comment chain? It’s pretty damn funny and I only wish I my brain worked fast enough to come up with beautiful stuff like that on a moment’s notice. Right on Fred. And hey it’s not like a guy in leg irons and hand cuffs is going to jump up and run around the plane assaulting people or babies……

  13. OMG the criminal boarded before you! All this time I thought snobs like you got whatever they wanted. Oh the humanity that you were not told how dare they do such a thing!

  14. The protocol for transporting defendants for Bond surrender on commercial aircraft is to board first and sit in the very back. Once seated the handcuffs and leg irons are to be removed. I don’t know any us carrier that allows the restraints to remain on while in flight. Second off you don’t have to be notified of anything surety recovery agents are not law enforcement and they are enforcing a contractual agreement between the court. The bail agent the insurance company and defendant. It’s a civil matter and none of your business.

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