Fear of flying

MIDDLETON, USA (BNN Travel Report) — Two days after a flight carrying former pop star Cat Stevens was diverted from Washington, DC to Maine, where the 1970s pop idol, now known as Yusuf Islam, was removed from the plane and sent back to London, and one day after a flight in Wisconsin was forced to turn around after a passenger opened the inflight magazine and found scribbled words in an “Arabic style writing,” another US flight was interrupted after a passenger grew suspicious of a man sitting next to him. The flight was grounded for six hours as security teams searched the aircraft and questioned all passengers.

Airline officials say there were no signs of problems until the aircraft had reached its cruising altitude. It was then that an alert passenger conveyed his fears and concerns to a member of the flight crew.

“There was this foreign-looking guy sitting next to me wearing a weird scarf around his neck. He had a beard and this dark sort of complexion. He kept searching for something in his pockets and he looked pretty unhappy. He popped something in his mouth and then leaned back and shut his eyes while opening and closing his mouth again and again like he was chanting or praying silently or something,” said Jimmy Bob Johnston, a salesman from southern Indiana.

Gum Arabica linked to global Jihad?

“When he got up to use the bathroom, I noticed a crumpled piece of paper left behind on his seat. I picked it up and then the words, why, they just jumped right out at me: ‘gum arabica’. Arabica! So I knew right away he’s got some Middle East connection. I got real alarmed, so I looked at the stuff he’d put in the pocket of the seat in front of him, and there were CDs by Cat Stevens, so I did what had to be done: I told the flight attendants about him and, well, you all know the rest: they nabbed him coming out of the bathroom.”

A thorough search of the airplane and passengers revealed nothing. The gentleman in question, a scholar from Italy, claimed he was just chewing some gum to make his popping ears feel better at the high altitude.