Holy water! Did Southwest mistreat passenger on a pilgrimage?

There isn’t much Val Maswadi and Southwest Airlines can agree on.

Here are a few facts that aren’t in dispute: Maswadi and her family were scheduled to fly from Chicago to Orlando this summer. They were coming from a religious pilgrimage in Saudi. In Chicago, they had a disagreement with a Southwest agent over jugs of holy water they wanted to check with their luggage. After an argument, Maswadi’s flight was involuntarily refunded.

(Note: And earlier version of this post suggested the family was on its way to Saudi.)

Maswadi says Southwest was “abusive” and insensitive to her religious beliefs.

“I was never able to get checked in, and had to delay my travel with a different airline the next day,” she says. “It cost me money, time, and a lot of heartache. It is a shame for Southwest to hire such individuals that can’t treat customers well — employees that are ignorant of other cultures and religions.”

Maswadi contacted me because she believed the Southwest agent with which she argued acted inappropriately. She says the agent wouldn’t let her check the holy water in her luggage and then, after arguing, removed her bags from the conveyer belt, refunded her ticket, and told her to fly on another airline.

What set the ticket agent off?

“I agreed not to check in the water but also told her, that her behavior will be reported as I wrote her name down,” she says. “At that time she got more angry. She decided I should find another airline.”

I asked her if she’d contacted Southwest in writing about this incident. It turns out she hadn’t. Here’s what Southwest had to say after she asked:

We received your e-mail and are sorry to hear that we have left you doubting our commitment to Customer Service. Thank you for giving us the chance to follow up on your concerns and to apologize for letting you down.

In researching you situation, we contacted the Chicago Midway Station (MDW). According to our records, we show that you never boarded Flight #1446. Rather, our MDW Lobby Manager advised that this incident occurred at the baggage check-in area. He went on to explain that you and your family were attempting to check in two 3-gallon unmarked plastic containers full of liquid. Our employees explained to you that the jugs of liquid could not be checked-in as baggage or taken on the plane as carry-on items because they were improperly packed. However, our Agents offered to hold the items for you to be picked up a later time, but they advised us that you declined our offer.

It is important to point out that Southwest Airline’s Contract of Carriage states that we may, at our sole discretion, chose to refuse to transport as checked baggage, items that are improperly packed. The reasoning behind this is that some items are not always able to withstand the shifting cargo loads associated with turbulence and weight distribution inside an aircraft luggage compartment during takeoff and landing. In these cases, if the containers were to get damaged, there is a high chance that their contents would spill out, potentially damaging other Passenger’s checked luggage. With this in mind, our MDW Employees refused to accept your plastic containers as checked luggage because they were not properly packed.

Additionally, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) maintains that all liquids must be in a 3.4 ounce bottle to be acceptable as a carry-on; Therefore, the liquids you attempted to check in would be unfit as carry-on items as well.

It is our understanding that the items in question held a strong religious value to you, and we are so sorry that we were unable to accommodate your request to transport them. That said, our MDW Manager also advised that your family was refused transportation due to their threatening and confrontational behavior. Our Contract of Carriage specifically cites our responsibility to deny access and/or transportation to any “person or persons whose conduct may compromise his/her own comfort and/or Safety or the comfort and Safety of others.” These provisions apply to any person or persons whose conduct is, appears, or has been known to be disorderly, abusive, uncooperative, offensive, threatening, intimidating, or violent. Our MDW Manager went on to advise that the local law enforcement was called in order to help mediate the situation. Since we did not provide you and your family with transportation, please know that your unused tickets have been refunded to the original form of payment.

We are saddened to hear of this unpleasant experience. Furthermore, I assure you that Southwest Airlines does not condone discrimination or prejudice in any form. In fact, a cursory view of our workforce, as well as our expansive, multi-cultural Customer base, is a reliable indicator that we exalt and appreciate diversity. Regardless of the circumstances, we care about the impression we leave on our Customers, and we want them to know that their complaints are taken seriously. I want you to know that the appropriate Leaders have been made aware of your concerns.

Again, we appreciate your taking time out of your day to let us know about your recent experience. We understand that you must do what you feel is necessary to achieve peace-of-mind about these events, but it is our hope that you will consider all perspectives before drawing your final conclusions about Southwest Airlines. Thank you for your patience and your patronage.

I asked Maswadi what she thought of Southwest’s rebuttal. She wasn’t impressed.

“I’m disappointed,” she told me. “I did follow the rules. The person at the counter just refused to hear me and roughly handled my luggage. She kept saying this is not because of your religion. And that statement in itself made me uncomfortable.”

I wasn’t present, so I don’t know what really happened. But the truth probably lies somewhere in between. Did Maswadi and her family get a little extra scrutiny because of their attire, which suggested they were devout Muslims? I can’t imagine that not being the case.

At the same time, having large jugs of liquid would be problematic, no matter what your appearance.

The takeaway for the rest of us: Don’t get into an argument with the ticket agent, if possible. And if law enforcement has to be called to mediate a dispute, don’t expect to fly that day.

Southwest refunded the ticket in the end, but refused to compensate Maswadi for additional expenses incurred because of the altercation.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • jmtabb

    While I think there were probably cultural misunderstandings, I don’t think that the issues were “religious”. People from some cultures can seem more “in your face” than others when agitated, which the Southwest agent perceived as a threat. Once they think you are a threat, take a seat, you won’t be flying that day no matter what else happens.

    If it’s true that the local authorities were called, then we should have a police report somewhere too, right? What did the police report say? It might be another source that can shed a bit more light on the issue.

  • http://flyicarusfly.com/ Fly, Icarus, Fly

    Wow. I thought that was one of the best corporate responses I’ve ever seen. Based on the story, I don’t think the OP has any case. SW said “no” to the water. It was probably then that the OP informed them that it had religious significance (which in this case, means nothing. If it’s not properly packed, I don’t think it really matters what it is.) Had the OP agreed to leave it, I can’t see any reason why the ticketing agent would have booted them. So, no compensation due. Taking down the agent’s name and making a scene shows that emotions were involved. I’m thinking that was more the OP than the agent.

  • http://www.facebook.com/CarverFarrow Carver Clark Farrow

    I have no idea. This is a classic he said she said. I am somewhat skeptical of Southwest’s response. Had the ticket agent really said that “I’m sorry the water is improperly packed and it might spill because of turbulence”, I can’t imagine that any devoutly religious person would want to chance Holy Water being defiled by spilling.

  • backprop

    The only question I have is, after seeing, “I did follow the rules.”

    …. Did she?

  • EdB

    I’m wondering what rules she thinks she followed. It would appear she didn’t follow the rules for packing the water and that is what lead to the whole incident.

  • EdB

    “employees that are ignorant of other cultures and religions”

    This is one of those statements from people that really irks me. They want other to be understanding of their culture and religion but they don’t want to be understanding of the culture and/or religion of the country they are in. In this case, the culture was, your pack check-in items properly or it doesn’t fly.

  • EdB

    A question that came to mind after thinking about this some is how did the agent even know about the water in the first place? If they had packed it inside of their check-in luggage, the agent would never have seen it. Did they just hand the agent two 3-gallon jugs as check-in luggage? If so, it sounds like they were either pretty flimsy material and/or did not have locking lids to prevent accidental opening. I don’t blame the agent for refusing to check them in if this was the case.

  • $16635417

    Agreed. I’m trying to picture the episode myself. One line says they wanted to check the jugs WITH their luggage, another states they couldn’t check the water IN their luggage. (Was this an attempt to repack after not being able to check the jugs unpacked?)

  • BrianKal

    Agree, nice job WN on a thoughtful, thoroughly researched response. More airlines/companies should do that. Not to mention they followed their CoC down to a tee,which is a legally binding contract when you buy a company. If the police were called, she did more than ask for a name, she was clearly not fit to fly. Good job WN!

  • BrianKal

    when you buy a ticket* sorry, typo

  • Raven_Altosk

    Good for Southwest. I can imagine this was not an easy group to deal with as anyone who thinks jugs of holy water would be easy to check in a day and age where liquids are frowned upon is a moron. I also am willing to bet good money the “religious and cultural differences” are from a certain “religion of peace” that expects everyone to bend over backwards for them. Perhaps they should worry less about holy water and more about the murder of young women trying to educate themselves? Hmm?

    And, now I need amend my usual snark: if you can’t travel without your “emotional support snake,” the stinky cheese you bought abroad, or your bloody holy water, STAY THE HELL HOME.

  • Adam1222

    Does anyone else think its odd to be flying Chicago to Orlando on Southwest en route to Saudi Arabia?

  • BillCCC

    I think that anybody trying to check in “two 3-gallon unmarked plastic containers full of liquid” would be scrutinized. Being abusive or threatening to an airline employee or anyone at the airport is a sure fire way not to fly.

  • emanon256

    Yes, I am so impressed with their response too. They clearly read the e-mail,researched it, and responded appropriately. WTG WN!

  • emanon256

    I would imagine if it was 2, 3 gallon jugs as WN states, the bag was abnormally heavy, (48 Lbs just in water) and they could probably hear it sloshing around.

    I don’t blame the agent either, that could really damage other peoples belongings if a jug burst.

  • emanon256

    I am really confused as to why they would need to bring 6 gallons of holy water with them. In my experience with the Muslims I know, holy water is available at the Mosques they go to when traveling, and most of them bring it back from their pilgrimage, not to their pilgrimage. And the ones I know who brought it back, usually bring a small container.

  • LadySiren

    Very much agreed – that was a well-crafted response. I’m sure the OP was very upset because it was at the start of a very meaningful journey, which may have led to this exchange. It sound to me like while heated, it was handled properly.

    I do think the OP needs to take some responsibility here; I find it doubtful that any airline would accept two unmarked jugs of mysterious liquid as a checked item. Also, a check of Southwest’s rules would’ve helped them understand packaging requirements.

  • TonyA_says

    OK, I might be ignorant but I can google. What I read is people take Zamzam water BACK from Hajj or Umrah pilgimages. It does not make sense to take holy water FROM Chicago to Mecca since the holiest well is in Mecca. Please read http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/news/saudi-police-seize-hajj-bags-carrying-holy-water/479992

    IMO, Southwest did nothing wrong.

  • calbff

    That was one of the best corporate responses I’ve ever read. I would have liked to see a better follow up on the employee she was dealing with to determine if there was any abuse either way, but nonetheless I actually believed that response when I read it, and that almost never happens in this day.

  • SoBeSparky

    The fact that people lack what we call “common sense” is no surprise to me. You have to be in a mass-public-contact job for a few days to appreciate the oddities of life and logic.

    I can see this happening. It is not a he-said, she-said at all. Passengers wanted to check unknown liquids in insufficient containers. Airline said no. Passengers said it was for religious reasons, thinking it was their right to transport anything in the name of religion. Airline said no, we do not care about the reason, only the risk. Passengers get upset thinking airline insensitive to their religious needs. No amount of reasoning will calm those who feel discriminated against for fundamental beliefs.

    Authorities are called, either prematurely or as a preventative measure. Doesn’t matter. Religion versus aircraft safety, we know which will prevail when checking in for a flight.

  • MarkKelling

    Why were they taking the water with them? Most bring water back from their pilgrimage, not take it with them.

    Many airlines spell out exactly how much of the water you can bring back from Saudi Arabia with you. United states specifically it must be in a container no larger than 10 liters and over wrapped in plastic to catch any leakage and you are only allowed one container in checked luggage only. But there is no mention of taking water with you other than bringing it out of Saudi. I don’t see that on Southwest’s site, probably because they don’t fly there.

    Overall, I feel that the agent probably overreacted to the OP who was probably very agitated about not being able to bring the water with them. And the OP was probably overly agitated about not being allowed to bring the water with them. Also, did the OP repack the water into different containers before flying on the other unspecified airline the next day?

    People can’t expect everyone to know about the specifics of every religion in the world. When confronted with a situation like this, a calm explanation of the reason for having whatever is being questioned is the best approach. Also, probably checking with the airline you are flying to see what their requirements are before arriving at the airport would have helped.

  • http://www.facebook.com/judyserie.nagy Judy Serie Nagy

    This is probably the most ridiculous travel story I’ve ever read. 3-gallons of “holy water” to be checked in? I think most airline employees with direct passener contact should receive awards for dealing with people like this. If the water is holy, then 3 ounces should be sufficient for anyone.

  • @passportjunky

    Give me a break…..get the water when you arrive! Taking Holy water FROM Chicago TO Saudia Arabia VIA Orlando……the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard!

  • TonyA_says

    United Airlines Policy:
    Zamzam Water

    United Airlines will accept one jerry can containing up to 10 liters (2.64 gallons) of Zamzam water as checked baggage at no extra charge.The jerry can must be properly packed in a plastic covering to avoid leakage and damage to other bags.Jerry cans containing Zamzam water are not permitted as carry-on or in cabin baggage.If more than one jerry can is checked, the extra jerry cans will be subject to excess baggage charges.

  • EvilEmpryss

    Thank goodness it was safety. :D

    I know I wouldn’t have let the airline use the OP’s religion as an excuse for me having a bunch of soggy luggage. I like my undies sanitized, not sanctified.

  • TonyA_says

    No she didn’t follow the rules. Reading different airline rules, those that accommodate Zamzam water tend to have a 10 liter standard. Interesting that Saudi Arabia has vending machines selling these 10 liter containers.

    She has no execuse.

  • Daddydo

    This is the most outrageous claim that I have read for the months that I have been reading your post. Nothing rings true about this story from Maswadi’s story. I have noticed other posts that Orlando is not the proper routing for the flight. TSA has rules about liquids. Nowhere in the story does it discuss if Southwest ever discussed checking the contents. They have to assume the worse. TSA’s regulation is below.
    Federal law
    forbids the carriage of hazardous materials aboard aircraft in your luggage or
    on your person. A violation can result in five years’ imprisonment and penalties
    of $250,000 or more (49 U.S.C. 5124). Hazardous materials include explosives,
    compressed gases, flammable liquids and solids, oxidizers, poisons, corrosives
    and radioactive materials. Examples: paints, lighter fluid, fireworks, tear
    gases, oxygen bottles and radio-pharmaceuticals.
    There are
    special exceptions for small quantities (up to 70 ounces total) of medicinal and
    toilet articles carried in your luggage and certain smoking materials carried on
    your person. For further information review the information found at
    TSA’s prohibited items

  • TonyA_says

    Just to be VERY CLEAR. 3 gallons is 11.37 liters. That is more than the 10 liter standard that Saudi Arabia Aviation law requires:
    For all flight operator it is prohibited to carry zamzarn water by any means and any quantity. The only quantity allowed with carried out personal baggage should not exceed one container of zamzam (10 liters) and should be wrapped and sealed properly in accordance with the wrapping standards available at the wrapping agent at the airport to ensure avoidance of any leakage of water.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    I’ve just got around to reviewing some of the comments that have been approved and that are still in the queue (I’m in another timezone today). Mods are being pretty strict about anything that can be even mildly construed as anti-Muslim. I agree that we should really try to keep this discussion civil and on track.

  • Tanya

    I say SW did more than enough. Not only did the customer service respond appropriately, but if police were called out (did anyone check to see if there was a police report filed on the incident?) then something about the way the customers were acting gave them reason to call. Great job on the well researched answer! I think SW did more than enough considering the OP did not follow the rules and then had to have local police called in.

  • Kathleen Proud Keyte

    are they mad? Trying to check in 2 large jugs of liquid. I would have hoped ANY airline would have refused that request.

  • Nikki

    Like the SW response. The detail was necessary, and everything addressed by the OP was handled within the context of their response. As for how the staff treated her, that’s up to anyone’s interpretation, from the sound of it. The fact that she got her ticket refunded is much better than, say, being hauled off by the police or Port Authority cops as a nuisance.

  • technomage1

    I agree, SW’s response was great. I don’t claim to be an expert, but from what I understand typically water is taken home from the haji, not taken to it. So her story is problematic. In any event, how upset would she have been if the containers broke en route?

  • Joe Farrell

    Muslims dont use Holy Water . . . wtf is going on there and why does it matter if there is water in checked luggage?

  • BillCCC

    I agree that the discussion should be civil and on track but the OP did bring up religion, called SW abusive and insensitive to her beliefs as well as describe the employee as ignorant. This is bound to result in borderline if not insulting comments.

  • naoma

    Security made the right decision. RULES ARE RULES.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Since I was censored earlier…SWA did the right thing. If you have to travel with an emotional support snake or gallons of “holy” water…you probably need to stay home.

  • pplaresilly

    You know, sometimes when people don’t get their way, or can not sway you to their way of thinking, they use the ‘religious/race/gender’ card…when really the card that fits most is the ‘stupidty’ card…I’m just say’n.

  • pauletteb

    I’m not a big fan of SWA and often pay extra to avoid them, but I think their agent acted correctly in this case. The fact that law enforcement got involved to “mediate” suggests that Maswadi’s family had gotten out of hand. I have a strong feeling that Maswadi was the first one to bring up religion when she said the bottles contained “holy water,” and holy or not, I sure wouldn’t have wanted it leaking out of her bags onto mine. Southwest doesn’t owe Maswadi anything more than a refund on those tickets.

  • TonyA_says

    Hey Chris, I’m really curious, did these water jugs go through TSA inspection?
    Many pilgrimage related websites recommend taking a direct flight FROM Saudi because usually domestic flights within the USA does not allow this much water or liquids to be checked in.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Well, Muslims DO use holy water – it’s called Zamzam water. And it’s not uncommon for Muslims to carry it on flights, but that’s usually OUT of Saudi, not into it, because they get it from a well in Mecca. And it matters that it was in their checked luggage because according to Southwest it was improperly packed, which could lead to it leaking all over everyone else’s luggage. So that’s wtf is going on. :)

  • http://www.copenhagenize.com/search/label/erik%20griswold Erik Griswold

    Everyone has to remember that Southwest is not an international airline and they have no alliances with any airlines that fly outside of North America and the Caribbean (like AirTran). They can’t/won’t even interline your bags with U.S. carriers.

  • Michael__K

    It wasn’t an “unknown liquid” any more than a bottle purported to contain wine or shampoo. If anyone thought it was truly suspicious it could have been flagged for extra thorough TSA screening.

    “Insufficient containers” or “improperly packed” are completely subjective standards. Have you seen the containers in question? Do you have any idea whether or not other airlines/baggage agents routinely accepted the same containers without incident? If you can’t answer those questions then it’s inappropriate to leap to conclusions.

  • Michael__K

    1) Southwest doesn’t claim a 10 liter rule. They claim they would have transported the containers if they were not “improperly packed”

    2) The OP was travelling with her family. The limits you cite are per passenger/checked bag, not per family.

  • LFH0

    On the one hand, I was impressed with a letter from Southwest which actually responded thoughtfully and thoroughly, and was not a mere cut-and-paste form response. Kudos to Southwest.

    On the other hand, I did not agree with Southwest equating comfort and safety with “offensive” and “threatening” conduct.

    What is viewed as “offensive” is inherently subjective. For example, some people may find mixed race marriages to be offensive, and therefore feel “uncomfortable” when people of different races show affection for one another. But our constitution protects the right to such marriages, and I expect that no one at Southwest would bar such a couple from boarding an airplane on that basis. Similarly, our constitution protects the right of free expression, and at its heart, a person wearing a shirt with a message deemed by some as offensive is no different than the amorous couple situation. Subjective use of offensiveness should not be equated with comfort and safety, as least to the extent that the individual deemed as being offensive is not directly imposing himself or herself on others.

    As for threats, there are many different types. For virtually any business I deal with, there underlies the transaction an implied understanding that should the business try to cheat or harm me, I may that business for the loss. There is nothing wrong with threatening to sue someone when one has been wronged. That response is entirely civil. I would go one step further, and say that if someone appears to be getting set to unlawfully attack me physically, I can threaten to defend myself if, and only if, actually attacked. The real line here is that of a threat of imminent physical attack. The problem is that some front line people are unable to distinguish between these types of threats, and may view a customer’s threat to report that front line person’s misdeed to their boss as carte blanche for denying service on the basis of being threatened. The prohibition of “threats” should be qualified as meaning offensive physical attacks (and in this context I use “offensive” to mean the opposite of “defensive,” and not, as in the prior paragraph, to mean “repugnant”).

  • Dutchess

    The question of what the heck do you need 6 gallons of holy water for aside, don’t people realize that if the water bottles break that they will potentially ruin dozens of other bags in a cargo hold? I think a passenger insisting they should be able to check unapproved bottles is pretty inconsiderate. If I was going to carry something like this on a plane with me, I would have done my research BEFORE I got to the airport so there would be no surprises.
    SW acted absolutely appropriately here.

  • Dutchess

    Because if 6 gallons of water happen to leak out of Mr Maswadi’s bag it will potentially effect dozens of other bags in the cargo hold. I’m pretty sure nobody wants to arrive at their destination with a soaking wet suitcase, holy water or not.

  • JimDavisHouston

    I won’t believe anyone who claims rudness until I hear both sides of the story. And c’mon, 6 gallons of unmarked liquid? on a commercial Airline? Lets get real here. You mention their attire. The Airline wouldn’t accept that no matter how they were dressed. They’re not only unreasonable, they’re crazy.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I once picked up my luggage from the carousel and found it befouled with someone else’s broken bottle of booze. Thanks to the inconsiderate passenger who didn’t bother to pack his bottle properly, I ended up having to spend my first day on my vacation stinking like the town drunk until I could get all of my clothes cleaned. And it cost me a pretty penny, because there were no laundry facilities anywhere nearby, so I had to send it all out to be cleaned at the inflated hotel prices.

    To this story, I say YAY Southwest! Good job on several fronts:

    1. Thinking about the other passengers, and how unfair it would be to have their water spill all over our luggage.

    2. Doing a thorough job of researching the situation and responding with a thoughtful letter, rather than a pro-forma corporate denial and non-apology.

    3. Refunding the full amount of the ticket.

    I get so tired of people who think their religion means they get to trample all over other people’s rights. Don’t believe in gay marriage? Don’t marry a gay person, but don’t deny OTHERS the right to do so! Believe that everyone must pray every day? Fine, go ahead and pray – but don’t make MY children pray YOUR prayers in a public school! Want to carry holy water on a plane? Don’t subject MY luggage to getting soaked with YOUR water!

    The reality is that this has nothing to do with religion. That is just an excuse that the passengers are using to exert their right to break the rules, putting other people’s belongings at risk.

    In terms of the interaction, as others have pointed out, none of us really know what happened. Did the agent get angry? Perhaps. Did the Maswadi’s get agitated and belligerent? Perhaps. My personal belief is that probably both happened to at least some degree. (Although I suspect that most of the problem was from the Maswadi’s, who seem to feel a sense of religious entitlement.)

    But the bottom line is, the luggage rules are there for a reason, and Southwest did the right thing in a) refusing to transport a large amount of improperly packed liquid, and b) refusing to transport passengers who objected to the rules about safely packing liquid.

    As for the question about how the agent even knew about the water, as others have pointed out, the very fact that the agent did see it indicates it was not packed properly. If it was, she never would have known about it…just like nobody knew about that bottle of booze in someone else’s bag that busted all over my luggage.

  • William_Leeper

    I agree with you rules are rules, but “they don’t want to be understanding of the culture/religion of the country they are in!” In case you haven’t ever read the Constitution of the United States, we DO NOT have a state religion here in America! We are also one of the most culturally diverse nations in the world! If it was not for this, we wouldn’t be the country we are today! You would be Anglican, and answering to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I agree with BillCCC to a point: the fact that the OP brought up her religion as a major contributing factor in the event that occurred means that we are going to want to talk about it. We don’t have to be rude or offensive, but we should be allowed to at least discuss it as it pertains to the story. In particular, keep in mind that the OP is using her religion as an
    excuse to violate Southwest’s luggage rules. Hence, the topic of
    whether religion is a valid reason to violate rules should be allowed
    for discussion.

  • bodega3

    Yes, and she would have had an issue with the next carrier, too.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    I don’t think the moderators who flagged your comment were as concerned with what you said as with the reaction in might provoke from some other commenters. (But I have to say, the “emotional support snake” comment brought a smile to my face!)

  • Asiansm Dan

    Absolutely agree with LeeAnne about “I get so tired of people who think their religion means they get to trample all over other people’s rights”.
    The worst of all is those devout fanatics treated other non-believers and believers of other religion as sinners, immoral’s,.. only them who are the nicest, the virtuous. Wait until they asked for their religious meals. I know at least 5 people who ask for religious meals because they know special meals are served first and they eat pork when going to restaurant with me.

  • y_p_w

    Why would anyone transport water in checked baggage via 3 gallon containers? I’m guessing they were the 3 gallon water jugs typically used for drinking water. If I were transporting something with any kind of significance, I would get something like 1 liter Nalgene bottles that I know won’t leak and which also should be easier to pack.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Well I think we have heard both sides of the story. And Southwest’s response makes it clear that the primary issue here is that the liquid was improperly packed, putting other passengers’ luggage at risk. All the rest is just he-said-she-said. (But to be honest, I believe Southwest’s rendition more than the OP’s ‘my-religious-rights-trump-yours’ whining.) If the passengers won’t properly pack their luggage, they don’t get to bring it. And if they are going to raise a stink about it, they don’t get to fly.

  • TonyA_says

    Yes the airline is the sole judge of whether they think your checked baggage is safe or acceptable. If you do not like it, then do not fly that airline. If you have doubts call the airline first and get them to note your reservation.

    If those 3 gallon containers burst, then the liquid inside them can damage other peoples belongings or ruin other stuff. Why should the airline risk it?

  • Frank Atheist

    Back home, there’s a brand of chocolate milk that I really, really like. Now I know how to get it home with me. I’ll just declare it Holy Chocolate Milk, and accuse the airline of religious discrimination if they won’t let me check it in with my luggage!!

    As an atheist, I think all of this is hooey, and it also shows how willing we are to forgo safety and security in the name of “religious respect.” United’s rules for “Zamzam” water look like a great loophole to get carefully-packaged liquid explosives, or perhaps a chemical warfare agent, into the country with no scrutiny. Attention, TSA: You’re doing it wrong.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Seems to me you’re leaping to just as many conclusions by assuming they were packed properly. The OP themselves calls them “jugs.” The sort of packaging I’ve seen my marine biologist sister-in-law use for transporting her stuff could get hit by a truck and not leak. And I wouldn’t exactly use the term “jugs” for them because they’re these square, super-heavy-duty containers.

    And, of course, if the airline had accepted them and they’d been ruined, the OP would be claiming it was the airline’s fault for not telling them they weren’t packed properly and now owed them compensation. Truly a lose-lose position for the airline.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Now that’s just not fair. Don’t ban it but then make us want to read it all the more!

  • Michael__K

    I find it interesting that when Chris posted a case about a passenger’s checked luggage getting left out in the rain and soaked — leaving some of her garments ruined — several commenters insisted that wet conditions should be anticipated and that it’s each passengers’ responsibility to waterproof their luggage/belongings if the contents can’t withstand water.


    Yet here, water is an “aircraft safety” issue.

  • Asiansm Dan

    From Chicago ORD, Etihad and Turkish Airlines have good connections to Middle-East, and all the European Airlines have too. That’s the first ODD thing and the second ODD thing is people collect Holy water on the way back not the way out.

  • adele

    Before the current liquids carry-on ban, I was on a SW flight with a woman who was carrying a gallon jug of what I gathered was vodka mixed with fruit punch. She put it in the overhead bin above her seat. During the course of the flight, the jug tipped over, and leaked. A steady stream of red, vodka scented liquid seeped down on her head from the overhead bin. She started screaming to the flight attendant that she was going to sue Southwest for destroying her booze. The flight attendant firmly pointed out that Southwest hadn’t touched her luggage at all. I secretly chuckled a bit, as the lady was a really behaving poorly and I thought what happened to her what poetic justice. However, it was unfortunate that the outgoing flight was delayed because they no doubt had to clean the plane.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I wanna see it too! I think Raven should get special dispensation for his comments, even if they cross the line. He makes snark sexy. ;)

  • technomage1

    Southwest’s response was outstanding and their compensation was fair. I don’t claim to be an expert, but isn’t holy water only holy if it comes from the well in Saudi? Why would she be packing water to take to Saudi? While it’s not uncommon for those on Haji to bring home holy water, taking it to the pilgrimage is a new one to me. It’s like a Catholic taking water to Rome to get it blessed by the Pope. You wouldn’t do it, you’d just pick up the water there to bring back with you.

    Let’s be honest here: the fact that she was flying to Saudi probably didn’t help matters any. 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were from there. People flying to and from there probably get a little more attention that those flying to Canada, for example. I spent time in Saudi in 2000 and it’s probably my least favorite Arab country. Kuwait, Qatar, and Bahrain are OK.

  • TonyA_says

    I am confused with your reply. It is certainly within WN COCs to reject those jugs of water (holy or not holy). But even if she connects in Orlando with an international flight that allows 10 liters of Zamzam water she will probably be rejected because:
    a) it is hard for her to prove she is transporting Zamzam water from a flight not originating from Saudi Arabia,
    b) 3 gallons is more than 10 liters, so the container size and contents are more for any airline allowing Zamzam, and
    c) she most probably did not properly wrap the jugs to ensure avoidance of water leakage or the water jugs themselves were not the jerry cans referred to that were built to withstand air travel.

    Please note that airlines that allow this much water as an EXCEPTION spefically state the exemption for Zamzam water in properly packed containers. Southwest does not have a Zamzam exception. It has a WINE exception.

    In reality, Southwest did them a favor by stopping them from further embarrassment and hassles with their latter flights.

  • technomage1

    I’d probably pack a 10L jerry can.

  • Michael__K

    I have no idea whether they were packed “properly” or not and neither do you.

    You missed my point: “properly” is a SUBJECTIVE STANDARD. Reasonable people and different baggage agents could potentially reach opposite conclusions under that standard. Maybe this was actually a clear cut case . Again, I don’t know and neither do you.

    Just because someone referred to it as a “jug” tells you practically nothing. Is the “jug” pictured in the link below packed properly or not? How can you tell? —


  • flutiefan

    i’ve been in a similar situation. they do not care and actually do not believe us when we say that exact sentence.

  • Michael__K

    The (usually) offshore agent you reach by phone when you call an airline isn’t going to have a clue whether your container is “packed properly” and isn’t going to commit to anything.

    You’re right: the airline is the sole judge of “packed improperly.”

    I object to the aspersions being cast against the OP’s that are not grounded in any established facts.

  • Grant Ritchie

    Beautifully written, LeeAnne. Thank you.

  • bodega3

    Is seems that you are missing the point. The airline employee is the one who gets to make the judgement call on what is proper, what is allowed. Obviously the employee saw the container and declared it unacceptable, be it a jug, a plastic bottle, a thermos, a boda bag, a rum runner or anything else that could hold liquid that you wish to call it.

  • Michael__K

    Tony, it would not surprise me if these *were* 10 liter containers. The only “3 gallons” reference comes from Southwest’s letter. 10 liters is 2.6 gallons which SW could have easily eyeballed or rounded to “3 gallons.”

    I’d really like to know if they eventually transported this Zamzam and, if so, if they made any changes to how it was packaged.

    Re: (b), I misread and thought you objected to the second container; we can disregard that.

  • EdB

    Don’t read things into my statements that aren’t there. First off, where did I say I was referring to the United States? The statement was a general one that can be used in any country. It probably would have been better worded as “of the area”, but the basic idea is they want me to respect their culture and religion but they don’t want to respect mine.

  • Kevin Mathews

    What is this Communist Russia now?
    So our comments are now not only moderated based on what is contained within them, but also on how others might react to them?
    Every time you post an article about Babies on a plane, or breastfeeding in public, or any number of other hot topic ideas they always illicit rants from the extremists in each area. Why stop Raven from illiciting the same types of responses?
    Come on Chris, as a journalist, is censorship a good thing here?

  • Sadie_Cee

    It seems to me
    that trying to check two, freestanding/unsecured 3-gallon containers of a
    liquid as baggage on an airline and refusing to accept that this act is
    impermissible is unreasonable.

  • Dutchess

    Actually, I think you have this all wrong. This is someone who decided their religion was more important than the safety of other passengers belongings and thought they could bully a flit attendant into breaking the rules on the grounds of religion. I don’t care what religion affiliation he was, the rules were clear and the decision to remove him was because of his attitude and not which god he chooses to worship.

  • backprop

    I didn’t delete the comment in question, but I saw it, and it wasn’t anything but a rant. There was nothing related to the topic.

  • ClareClare

    Back in a previous life, when I was a federal officer (years before Sept 11), this sort of scenario would’ve already raised security’s eyebrows instantly. The first question, of course, would’ve been, “Is that really water? And why do you want to transport it?” And the answers as the OP gives them would’ve raised the eyebrows even further, not only because the OP said they were taking the water TO S. Arabia, but more importantly, because the routing of the flight doesn’t seem to mesh with a trip to S. Arabia.
    I remember an actual scenario where a couple of Poles were stopped in Hawaii, because they claimed they were en route to Chicago from Poland. They had flown east, changing in India, going many hours/miles out of their way, and this fact IN ITSELF caused the officials manning the US border in Honolulu to stop them. To make a long story short, it turned out that they were legit–presumably they’d booked the cheapest flight, which obviously wasn’t the most convenient. But it simply wasn’t normal, and it caused our border-people at the time to take a closer look.
    My point is this: the OP and her family undoubtedly raised a number of different red-flags, simultaneously, when they attempted to check in. Their overall story, at least on the surface, doesn’t sound like it checks out. Add this uncertainty about them to their apparent belligerence, and wham, you’ve got yourself a refund! This has nothing necessarily to do with being Muslim, and everything to do with a total picture that looks suspicious from a security standpoint.

  • Michael__K

    See my reply to TonyA.


    You’re right: the airline is the sole judge of “packed improperly.”
    I object to the aspersions being cast against the OP’s that are not grounded in any established facts.

    Added: Just because the airline employee makes the call doesn’t necessarily mean they made a good call (maybe they did) and it doesn’t necessarily mean the customer didn’t use “common sense” (maybe they did, maybe they didn’t).

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    I’m at a little bit of a disadvantage because I didn’t make the decision to hold the first comment made by Raven (and just to be clear, we usually hold them for a while, but don’t delete them unless they contain profanity or other objectionable content). I think the moderators felt — and I support their decision — that there was a chance the discussion could go off the rails, devolving into an anti-Muslim diatribe. This is a moderated discussion, and is clearly disclosed as such since last month, which means that you can’t say whatever you want.

  • LeeAnneClark

    As someone who arrived at my destination with my luggage soaked by someone else’s booze, I can assure you that you are correct – nobody wants someone else’s improperly packed liquids befouling their luggage.

  • TonyA_says

    Wait a minute now. No one interfered with their right to whatever religion they want to believe. They were not being persecuted for their beliefs. Two points:
    (1) The airline rejected their water jugs because it did not pass the transport worthiness test of the airline. The airline was offering to hold the jugs for them until they came back.
    (2) They were not allowed to board because of their unacceptable BEHAVIOR.

    Religion has nothing to do with SWA’s actions.

  • jmtabb

    I had a similar experience with wine on an inter island flight in Hawaii once – a young couple had opened a bottle waiting for their transfer and pushed the cork back in partway to carry it on to the next flight.

    The bottle started leaking at takeoff. At first the flight attendants were super apologetic to the couple about the “rain in the plane” moisture that was dripping all over them, then we all realized that the “rain in the plane” was more like “champagne in the plane”. Fortunately for all, the couple was mortified, the flight attendants had a good laugh and they managed to put a stop to the leakage before too much damage was done.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sommer.gentry Sommer Gentry

    I think it would be important to see exactly what containers the Maswadis brought the water in. If they truly think that their containers would have protected other passengers’ luggage from leaks and spills, let’s see what those impervious containers looked like. From the description, they sound like the thin plastic jugs that milk comes in, which would obviously not be crushproof in checked luggage. If the containers were solid, then I doubt Southwest would have had a problem.

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    Southwest did the right thing by refusing to check unknown liquids in unmarked containers.
    Thank goodness we still have some common sense in the US.

  • EvilEmpryss

    Technically, the aircraft is waterproof only on the exterior. Spills inside the cargo area risk soaking more than luggage; there are mechanical and electrical systems that could be damaged by three or more gallons of water (holy or not). The damage might not affect that flight, but could cause problems down the line with corrosion in places that aren’t inspected as often because they’re assumed to be in a dry environment. Liquids can be shipped safely by air in appropriate containers, but shouldn’t be allowed in unsafe ones.

    And I missed that article. I would have a fit if my luggage were left out in pouring rain. Luggage should be water resistant, able to ward off a good spritzing, like would be expected if bags are loaded or moved in the rain, but that’s excessive. And as much the airline’s fault as if they allowed someone else’s stuff to soak mine.

  • y_p_w

    Might be suspected of being a flammable liquid. That’s why I’d suggest something translucent.

  • Michael__K

    You’re assuming that SWA’s version is 100% accurate and that the OP’s perceptions and discomfort were completely unwarranted.

    Possibly so but I don’t see how you would know that.

  • Michael__K

    they want me to respect their culture and religion but they don’t want to respect mine.

    What is that assertion grounded in? How do you know all this about the OP’s? For all you know, they could be experts in your religion (whatever it is) and they could be prominent champions for tolerance towards your religious brethren in other countries where your religion is in the minority.

  • TonyA_says

    Nowadays, there is no need to argue with an airline rep. Based on my experience and idea of how an airline works, what happened to her is understandable. It’s simple Michael, you argue, you don’t board. End of story. The complaint box went away after 9/11.

  • TonyA_says

    Yeah, didn’t AA blame the seats becoming loose on spilled drinks and coffee. 6 gallons might cause the whole floor to come apart :-)

  • EdB

    If you read my comment more closely, you will see I pointed out that this was a *CULTURAL* difference, not religious. They obviously did not respect the rule to pack the water properly. Southwest refused based on that, not religious reasons.

    How do I know this about the OP? By their actions as represented in their statements. They wanted the airline to break the rule so they could take the water, thus not respecting our culture of rules and laws.

  • Raven_Altosk

    So…by hold you mean not posted ever? Cuz what I said is about as anti-Muslim as some of the no-breastfeeding comments were anti-female. Your board, your rules bro…but…yeah.

  • TonyA_says

    Ed Boston has a good point. Please read http://wikitravel.org/en/Medina

    WARNING: Non-Muslims are strictly prohibited from entering Central Medina. The penalty is deportation from the country. Documentation will be checked upon entry and anyone not showing proof of being Muslim will be denied entry. However, many parts of the city, notably the outskirts and the Medina Airport, are open to all.

    Now tell me who is INTOLERANT of who?

  • Raven_Altosk

    Religious entitlement. My new fave term! Brofist

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    It’s posted. The mods just hold them for a little while.

  • technomage1

    I think either way they’re going to want to open it.

  • Michael__K

    I quoted your exact words, which referenced “culture and religion

    Can you please point us to the rule which explains how water should be properly packed? The one you claim the OP did not respect? And explain what that has to do with “culture?”

    FYI, here is the actual rule which SWA cited:

    h. Conditional Acceptance

    Carrier may, at its sole discretion, but is not obligated to, conditionally accept the following categories of items for Carriage as Checked Baggage subject to the Passenger‟s assumption of risk for damage to or destruction of such items. Checking items in the condition described below is considered by Carrier as Passenger‟s agreement to this assumption of risk.

    (1) Fragile or perishable items

    (2) Previously damaged items

    (3) Improperly or over-packed Baggage

    (4) Soft-sided cases or unprotected/unpacked items

    Notice this doesn’t say that any of these items are not allowed. It says SWA is not *obligated* to accept them. Also notice that SWA didn’t claim it was a soft-sided case.

    Without even seeing the containers in question, I defy you to explain how you know with such certainty that the OP’s “did not respect the rule?” How are you so certain that they weren’t using jugs that were designed for safe shipment, in spite of the baggage agent’s apprehensions?

  • jpp42

    I wonder if Chris got the direction of travel wrong? Could the OP have been carrying the jugs of water home, after having arrived on an international flight and making a domestic connection to Florida? There is no mention of change penalties for missing an international flight which you’d think would be another consequence of missing the first leg of a journey.

    However it should be noted that there are several flights on various airlines from Orlando to Europe, from which onward connections are clearly available to the middle east – maybe these were cheaper as it’s off-season in the theme parks.

  • Michael__K

    That’s a whole separate topic. It doesn’t mean that either side’s version is completely true or completely untrue.

  • EdB

    How can you even ask how to explain they didn’t respect the rule? The agent said the water was not pack properly and according to the very rule you quotes, did not have to accept it. The fact they kept trying to get it checked in shows they were wanting the airline to ignore the rule.

  • Jason Hanna

    I’m planning on buying some tannerite for target practice later this year.. Tannerite is a binary explosive which, when properly mixed, requires a projectile traveling at around 2000 fps to detonate. When it is unmixed, it’s stable and no more dangerous than baking soda, and perhaps even less so. So, I popped over to the tannerite site to do some research on it a few weeks ago. Google it and check the site out.. Over on the right hand side of the page, it shows this..

    “Although we shouldn’t have to tell the customers this, it’s a really bad
    idea to take ANY item that has the word “Explode” onto a plane.”

    This goes into the “shouldn’t have to tell” pile. Someone shouldn’t have to be told that you can’t bring 6 gallons of unmarked liquids onto a plane. Either as checked or carry on. While ‘holy water’ might have some exceptions.. Gee.. It MIGHT be a good idea to talk with the airline well ahead of time to see what would need to be done to be allowed to transport it. Not just show up at the airport with it and get snotty when you’re refused.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    I’ve reviewed her original email. It looks like she was vague about the timing of her flight, and whether she was on her way back or not. But here’s what must have happened: The family was returning from Saudia to Orlando via Chicago. The airline had allowed the liquid in their luggage on the international flight, but Southwest wouldn’t allow it on her domestic flight. I’ll see if I can get her to clarify the routing.

  • Michael__K

    Did the OP’s make those rules? Are you assuming they endorse them? Would you assume that anyone who traveled to the U.S. during slavery or segregation was intolerant?

  • Michael__K

    Which rule? You still haven’t explained what properly packed water looks like (and how that differs from the OP’s containers).

    And you may want to check Chris’ latest comment. The water was apparently packed properly enough to get from Saudi Arabia to Orlando.


  • LeeAnneClark

    Brofist back atcha! ;-)

  • LeeAnneClark

    Okay so I take it this is the comment that was previously “held” because it was a “rant” that was supposedly completely off-topic.

    Here’s my take (if anyone cares): the majority of this comment is most decidedly on-topic. Including the comment about the “emotional support snake”, which is classic Raven-style snark. ;-)

    The only part of this comment that I can see might lead to questions as to its suitability for this forum is this one: “I also am willing to bet good money the “religious and cultural differences” are from a certain “religion of peace” that expects everyone to bend over backwards for them. Perhaps they should worry less about holy water and more about the murder of young women trying to educate themselves?”

    Yeah, I gotta agree that’s pushing the envelope. Not all Muslims believe in murder or denying young women the right to education. Just like not all Christians believe in denying gays the right to marry, picketing soldier funerals, or that women are Biblically forbidden from being in leadership positions over men. The fact is that there are whacko extremists in all religions, and I don’t think there’s a single major religion in this world that doesn’t have some horrific stuff in its history to be ashamed of. And none of that has anything to do with this topic.

    So, Raven: behave yourself! We need your snark in here, not just for comic relief, but sometimes to just put some perspective on all of whiners who get all up in a lather when they are not treated like special snowflakes.

  • EdB

    “Which rule? You still haven’t explained what properly packed water looks like (and how that differs from the OP’s containers).”

    I don’t have to explain what properly packed water looks like. SWA said the way the OP presented the water to them was not acceptable and under the rule you posted, they did not have to accept it. If you want to argue about the rule for properly packed water, look up the rule and find out how the containers used by the OP did or didn’t match the rule. The facts of the discussion is SWA claimed the containers presented did not meet requirements. We did not get the information on how they didn’t meet it, just that they didn’t.

    Now given the follow up that Chris posted that it may in fact have been on their return trip this happened, I can understand the OPs frustration. However, the international airline that brought them in may have different rules as to what properly packed water looks like. Again, information we have not been given. Since it appears there is no international standard for how to properly pack water, it is up to each airline to define that and the passenger’s responsibility to find out what those rules are.

  • Michael__K

    If it was an aircraft safety issue I would expect an FAA rule, not a Southwest baggage liability rule to be cited.

  • Michael__K

    You claimed the OP didn’t respect a rule and doesn’t respect “your culture”.

    And you haven’t shown either. Some day an airline employee or TSA employee might tell you that you can’t do something. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are right.

    [Edited for typo]

  • EdB

    Not sure what is happening with the system but it is not accepting my replies.

    So, one last time. We are discussing if the OP and SWA reactions were appropriate for situation. The situation is the OP was informed the water did not meet SWA’s rules for acceptance as check-in luggage. We are not discussing how it didn’t meet the rule.

  • Michael__K

    Again, how does this demonstrate a lack of respect for your culture? That was where we started.

    How does this demonstrate a lack of respect for a rule when you can’t explain what packaging follows the rule and what packaging doesn’t? How do you know that the OP and her fellow passengers are held to a consistent standard (especially given that you obviously don’t even know what standard she was held to)?

  • TonyA_says

    Did you read this condition?
    Carrier will not accept Baggage that it determines cannot safely be carried in the Baggage compartment of the aircraft for any reason.

  • http://flyicarusfly.com/ Fly, Icarus, Fly

    If I’m reading the rules correctly, United is making a free allowance for holy water. There is no mention of “no scrutiny”. I’d think it’d be under the same safety regulations as anything else in checked baggage, be it 10 liters of zamzam water or 10 liters of shampoo. If you’re OK with pouring your chocolate milk into a jerry can, I think you indeed have found a loophole! (Otherwise the “Yoo-Hoo” labels might give you away…)

  • http://flyicarusfly.com/ Fly, Icarus, Fly

    Really interesting insight into the workings of border patrol. Please keep them coming!

  • JenniferFinger

    Good response from Southwest Airlines. Basically they’re saying that whether the liquid in question is holy water or crude oil or whatever, it has to be properly packed in accordance with the rules so it can travel safely, and the Mahwadis didn’t do that before they tried to board. That doesn’t sound like religious discrimination to me.

  • JenniferFinger

    Let’s keep the air cool and our tones civil here and not go back and forth in sarcasm and hostility, okay, guys?

  • technomage1

    Thanks for the update that she was flying from Saudi and not to it. Now things make a lot more sense. I don’t get why her luggage (water included) wasn’t checked through to her destination, but that my not have been possible.

  • TonyA_says

    James, here’s one for your photo collection.
    Note that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia sells official 10 liter jerry plastic cans that pilgrim attendees can fill up with zamzam. But before they can check them in, the plastic container must be clearly marked as zamzam, wrapped around with plastic, and placed inside a leak proof bag. These services are provided at the airport for a fee. Finally, the zamzam water is checked in using another counter. See http://saudiblogs.tomotiki.com/?cat=100

    Only the zamzam water is free. The plastic jerry can, wrapping, and leak proof bag are not free. Saudi law requires this specific handling requirements for baggage handling..

    There is no mention of the OP’s checking in anything like the zamzam water I just described since she was required to label the two jugs.

  • IDoNotBowToCommies

    If it were wine, expect it to be flagged for TSA screening.
    If it contained iPads, expect it to be flagged for a whole TEAM of TSA Screeners.

  • IDoNotBowToCommies

    Maybe they know something we don’t? Like maybe the Chicago water was blessed by the new Messiah? (Or so he THINKS he is! )

  • IDoNotBowToCommies

    Ever hear of Ebay?

  • Michael__K

    Tony, (a) they didn’t choose to cite that condition and (b) it’s just as subjective and ill-defined as the other condition.

    Can your wine bottle purchased at duty travel in your luggage on Southwest? Yes or no? If the agent says no and the passenger complains, does that mean the passenger doesn’t respect Ed’s culture?

  • Michael__K

    I’m ashamed of the assumptions being made about the OP throughout the comments.

  • bodega3

    I am siding with the employee.

  • Grant Ritchie

    Well said.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UES4TUPI6NRPTG2DCB4YCX6R4U wyoming1949

    Another “subjective standard” is whether a customer is creating a “disturbance” or, in the case of flight attendants, “interfering with a crew member.” Based on media reports over the years it appears many airport police agencies feel that airline employees ALWAYS tell the truth and NEVER exaggerate! Perhaps the “safest” way to deal with airline employees is to say as little as possible and refuse all meal and other cabin service. The latter strategy I’ve found is effective in making a potentially “troublesome” flight attendant “disappear.” Finally, if the holy water was, really, that important to the OP, they should have had enough funds to have it shipped (by UPS) home.

  • Raven_Altosk

    I’ll be good.
    …or I’ll be good at it.


  • Raven_Altosk

    Sounds like they were going to Di$ney before Mecca. Maybe they needed to bless It’s a Small World? God knows that thing is like the seventh layer of hell…

  • TonyA_says

    SWA sells a wine bottle container for $5 each. So they are definitely preprepared for your wine bottle.

  • Michael__K

    And that’s projecting your biases on a situation where critical facts are unknown and in dispute.

  • mbods

    Everyone knows, in this day and age, you can’t expect to be allowed to carry or check, gallons of unmarked liquid onto an airplane. Come on…

  • TonyA_says

    Well Raven, you need to watch this BBC documentary about zamzam.
    Definitely eye opening!

  • Scott

    Raven, this comment reminded me of Disney World in the 70s when Eastern Airlines was still around and they have a similar “ride”
    (aka “place parents took kids to cool off when they needed a break) in Tomorrowland called “If You Had Wings.” It’s been 30 years since I’ve been on that ride, but I still remember that freakin’ song…..hard to forget, since it rivaled “Small World” for number of times the title was sung….over and over and over…..

  • Raven_Altosk

    But it is “religious!” Next time I get crap about my gun which is legal and legally packed–but some ticket agents are ignorant–I’m gonna shout religion.

  • bodega3

    No, they were flying to Saudi on WN which doesn’t check baggage though to any other carrier. Lots of weirdness on their travel arrangements!

  • bodega3

    It is pretty clear to me just by her letter. They didn’t know what they were doing, assumed because it was related to their religion that it would be acceptable. They learned a lesson…an expensive one. An employee isn’t going to take the step to refund a passenger without feeling very confident about the situation at hand. I have no doubt that the employee was fully aware of placing an employer in a place for a lawsuit and for losing their job. Did you ever watch the WN program? They get a lot of misinformed passengers on what can be checked, how to present one’s self and how to treat the carriers employees. As I told Flutie before, you couldn’t pay me enough to have his job.

  • Michael__K

    If I wanted to be provocative, I could write: “If you have to travel with an emotional support snake or with guns… you probably need to stay home.”

    Fact is, I respect your right to check a legal gun as baggage, even though I have no plans to exercise that right myself. Why can’t you show the same respect for your fellow passengers?

    You mention that you “get crap about [your] gun which is legal”, so clearly you don’t think that baggage agents are infallible. I’m sure Southwest baggage agents see a lot more checked guns than checked containers of holy water. If they are sometimes wrong with respect to guns, why is it so hard to imagine the **possibility** that they could have acted over-zealously with the OP’s holy water?

    If your gun was rejected by baggage agents at the airport — and your ticket was involuntarily refunded — and you needed to buy a last minute fare on another airline to get home — and you complained to Chris — I for one wouldn’t ridicule you. I would want to know the facts. And if the facts supported your version and there was no genuine threat or danger to your fellow passengers, I would want to see you get reimbursed for that last minute fare you improperly had to pay.

    [Edited for typo]

  • Michael__K

    Bodega, what happened to:

    arm chair quarterbacking isn’t fair without ALL the details.


    Do you only use that line in the defense of travel company employees?

  • http://flyicarusfly.com/ Fly, Icarus, Fly

    Interesting! Thanks! Before reading this post, I had never even heard of zamzam water… Live and learn!

  • http://flyicarusfly.com/ Fly, Icarus, Fly

    At this point, I think the onus is on the OP to send Chris photos of exactly how the “jugs” were packed. Certainly there are enough knowledgeable travel industry people who read this site to comment. Otherwise, the airline agent has the final say in this type of situation, I think.

  • Michael__K

    You mean we might want to get more facts? If you read through the comments most minds are already made up.

    I’d certainly like to know more about how the “jugs” were packed. *IF* the jugs were deemed proper to fly from Saudi Arabia to Orlando, then I don’t see why the onus should fall entirely on the OP. In that case, I think it would be a public service for Southwest to explain what sort of container/packaging it would have accepted and to explain the rationale for their differences from the international carrier(s).

    Yes, contractually the airline agent gets the final say. That doesn’t mean they should be above public criticism. According to Raven, “some ticket agents are ignorant.”

  • Michael__K
  • Michael__K

    Why wasn’t that proposed as an option then?

  • Raven_Altosk

    But my weapon is never packed incorrectly because I have a brain. I also don’t bring it where it’s not allowed–like NYC.
    Did someone pee in your cheerios today, bro?

  • Michael__K

    [Edited] It’s too bad you can’t imagine yourself being the one who claims you “packed correctly” and getting ridiculed without regard for the facts.

  • Raven_Altosk

    By this theory, bong water could be considered “holy” and I don’t want that on my luggage, pal.

  • Grant Ritchie

    Interesting video. Thanks for the link.

  • Michael__K

    Someone else might not be thrilled with the idea of a gun travelling on their flight. You don’t get to single-handedly decide what they can do any more than they get to decide what you can do.

    You want us to believe that you “packed correctly” and that “ignorant” agents harass you for no reason. Yet if agents harass someone else who says they “packed correctly” then you suggest they don’t “have a brain.” Stay classy pal.

  • TonyA_says

    Anyone who is planning to check in approx. 6 gallons (or a lot) of liquid in a domestic flight inside the USA needs to understand that s/he will have a lot of explaining to do. The airline will obviously want to know what kind of liquid that is (i.e. is it corrosive?) AND will like to know if it is packaged in such a way that it will not leak AND IF IT LEAKS, is there a protective barrier or absorbent ?

    The way I read this story, the Southwest agent was just doing her job. She protected the company’s assets as well as the luggage of every other passenger from a potential spill. Even FedEx and UPS will not take water jugs if the shipper cannot show they will not leak. An unprotected water jug may not even make it through the sortation belt and diverters without exploding and its contents spilling all over.

    Here’s a youtube video of “acceptable” zamzam baggages being loaded in the belly of an airplane. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBnz3tmm5SM
    Note how the passengers freaked out when they saw how the ramp guys were treating their “holy” water.

    It’s too bad an argument ensued. But we already know which side will win that 101% of the time.

  • bodega3

    Yeah, I see that now.

  • TonyA_says

    Still does not make much of a difference since they were flying from Midway (MDW), Chicago to Orlando on a domestic flight. A lot of good an explanation about zamzam water would do inside the USA? Worse, argue about it.

  • flutiefan

    i work in an NYC airport, and recently had a poor guy arrested at my ticket counter for failing to have the necessary permit for his gun. he was my age, and crying, and kept saying he’d never done anything wrong before. it was so sad, and i felt terribly for him. it was packed perfectly and within all our airline’s requirements, but as the officers explained, the onus was on him to educate himself on the rules/laws of his destinations.

    of course i allowed him to rebook his ticket free of charge :)
    it was the least i could do. i felt so sad for him. he truly just didn’t know (we all know ignorance isn’t an excuse, but it was still hard to see him react like that, he looked like a scared child).

  • http://twitter.com/SteveDickey Steve Dickey

    Kudos to Southwest. What if that jug of water had ruptured and leaked all over not the passenger’s luggage, but my bag that was under it! I’m glad Southwest has policies to prevent improperly packaged items to be checked. Holy or not.

  • jpp42

    Thanks for clarifying. In this case the anger makes a little more sense since one airline had already allowed the jugs. (Doesn’t justfiy her getting so outraged that the police had to be called however.)

  • Raven_Altosk

    That’s a sad story, but as a gun owner, I have to say you need to take responsibility for knowing the laws. That’s one of the first things they teach in the CHL permit classes.

    And, a quick google search is always good before going somewhere. Otherwise, I suggest people call the local police department and make sure their CHL is valid in the jurisdiction.

    But yeah. I never take my gun to NYC.
    (Oddly enough, I could take my skeet rifle…because those are allowed without problem. I could probably do more damage with it, too)

  • Michael__K

    needs to understand that s/he will have a lot of explaining to do.

    Was there any opportunity to explain? According to the OP’s version quoted by Chris, the agent “refused to hear” her attempted explanation.

    Southwest isn’t the only airline that wants to protect it’s assets and the luggage of every other passenger.

    They could have used this opportunity to explain to future pilgrimage passengers if their water would be accepted under any circumstances and if so how it should be packed to Southwest’s satisfaction. Looks like they declined to do that.

  • TonyA_says

    “Improperly Packed” – two words. End of discussion. Argue and you don’t fly.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Simon-De-Lao/1432704819 Simon De Lao

    I am so tired of people cramming their superstitions down our throats and claiming some religious discrimination. Next time why not just “pray” for your deity to miraculously transport to your destination – or better yet, fly on Air Jesus or Allah Airlines, or maybe the best advice is to just stay home.