Accused of Being a Terrorist: SAL to IAD on TACA

 This is the last of a six-part recount of my recent trip to Central America.

Be wary of security conscious flight attendants. For a few moments, I feared I was going to be escorted off the airplane in handcuffs and thrown into a Salvadorian prison. While I like watching “Locked Up Abroad” on NatGeo, I had no desire to be a future subject on the program.
Some background: About 10 minutes prior to boarding I asked one of the gate agents for a business class upgrade (to which, BTW, she said she would have given me had I belonged to TACA’s frequent flyer program—so sign up for every program you can, even if you have no intention of ever flying that airline again or crediting flights to them) and mentioned that I was a blogger doing a report on TACA and requested to board early.
To read what happened, click here. To sum it up, the purser freaked out that I was taking pictures onboard when I told her that I was not a TACA employee. Her actions (running down the aisle into the cockpit with a look of horror on her face, then fiercely scolding me for taking pictures because "that's what terrorists do") suggested she believed I was a criminal plotting to diabolically take over the plane.
I wasn't asked to delete my pictures, though:

Needless to say, my nerves were a bit frayed by the time we took off. It didn’t help out that the meal choices (beef or pasta) left much to be desired and the red wine was worse than United’s. I sat next to a nice couple from Fairfax who were originally from El Salvador. The woman, occupying the middle seat, was very talkative and treated herself to a few hundred dollars worth of crap from the duty free catalog while her husband rolled his eyes. Paris Hilton perfume? Ugh.
Her AVOD system was not working and she asked me to figure it out for her. It had frozen, so I flagged down a FA (NOT my dear purser) and asked her to reboot it. That fixed the problem, though she still asked for a lengthy tutorial on how to use the system.
I can’t say much else about the flight. The service was above average, again beating out Avianca, LAN, and Mexicana, though by the time we were nearing Washington my stomach was growling and I was told that there were no meals or snacks left. I don’t fault TACA for my fast metabolism, though.
We landed a tad late at Dulles and were ushered into a waiting mobile lounge that delivered us to the Main Terminal immigration area. We were the only flight arriving at that late hour and I consequently cleared immigration and customs in three minutes flat.
Strange that a one-night stay in Panama City doesn’t raise any red flags, but a one-night stay in Montreal does.
After refueling at the USO Lounge I caught the 5A bus to Rosslyn then took the Metro to Union Station for my Amtrak ride back to Philadelphia.

My first trip to Central America will not go down in history as one of my greatest trips, but I enjoyed exploring a new area of the world, albeit briefly, and do recommend TACA if you ever see a good deal. The $170 ticket was almost worth it for the United miles alone.


Carson April 6, 2011 at 11:24 pm

In Canada and the United States, Customs & Immigration have always been exempt from the general law that a person is treated as though innocent until proved guilty. As far as I know, Customs & Immigration for both countries have been the legal exception for a long, long time; perhaps always. I mention this because it was cited above. I thought it was general knowledge, and although law students can't be expected to know everything about the law, the irony in this instance caught my attention.

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