An Airline Exec Said In-Flight 'Muslim' Meals Could Be Used to Profile Travelers

Should airline passengers worry about ordering halal?

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Dec 17 2016, 6:00pm

Photo via Flickr user Jason Thien

You know a company is having a bad day when its Twitter account is basically a long string of replies with the same copied and pasted text. For Swiss International Airlines (SWISS) that repeated block of copy is "Airlines are not allowed and will never transmit data which may convey religion, health, political opinion to authorities." The SWISS PR team has even had to translate it into German and French after Middle East Eye published some questionable remarks made by Marina Ripa-Braescu, a facilitation and security manager for the airline.

While speaking at Borderpol's exciting annual border security conference, Ripa-Braescu suggested that information about passengers who ordered special in-flight meals could be used to help authorities identify or, you know, profile those travelers before a flight lands.

"For example, if they order a Muslim or kosher or vegetarian meal, you already start to know a little bit about that person," Ripa-Braescu reportedly said. SWISS currently offers kosher, Hindu, Halal meals on its flights, as well as a special vegetarian meal "in accordance with the customs of Indian Jainism."

READ MORE: A Muslim Flight Attendant Is Suing an Airline for Forcing Her to Serve Alcohol

Although Ripa-Braescu says that authorities could glean important information from passengers' meal preferences, the airline has since repeatedly clarified that it would not and does not transmit that data to anyone other than its own employees, but hasn't exactly apologized or admitted guilt. Say it with us: "Airlines are not allowed and will never transmit data which may convey religion, health, political opinion to authorities."

Middle East Eye does clarify that the governments of many countries require airlines to provide some information about the travelers onboard, including passport details, gender, birthplace, and payment information. This data supposedly helps with passenger screening upon arrival.

MUNCHIES has reached out to SWISS for comment. The airline has yet to respond, but we're pretty sure what we know what it will say.

UPDATE: SWISS responded to MUNCHIES with the following statement, edited for length: "The SWISS representative that is mentioned in the article explicitly highlighted during her speech at the conference that airlines are not allowed to transmit data which may convey the religion, health, political opinion etc. of a passenger (though these data might be interesting for certain authorities)...SWISS only passes on API data when required by the authorities.