A Palestinian-American comedian went to the airport wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with an iconic photo of Leila Khaled who is widely believed to be the first-ever female airplane hijacker.
Amer Zahr, 45, was born in Jordan to Palestinian parents but his family moved to the United States when he was just three years old. Zahr is a comedian and Palestinian rights activist who Reuters has described as being on a “mission to heal through humour”.
In a recent Instagram post, Amer wears a t-shirt with an iconic photo of Khaled holding an AK-47 and with the Palestinian flag draped behind her. “People say to me, Amer, enough, ‘do you have to be Palestinian all the time, even in the airport'”, Amers says in the short video.
“Yes, even in the airport,” Amer continues as he pans his camera to show off the t-shirt with a Delta Air Lines plane clearly visible in the background.
As a member of the armed Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) Khaled is credited with being the world’s first female hijacker as a member of the PFLP hijack team that took control of TWA flight 840 in 1969.
The hijackers forced the Rome to Tel Aviv flight to divert to Damascus and although none of the passengers or crew was harmed, after they had disembarked the hijackers blew up the nose section of the plane.
According to some media reports, Khaled had a series of plastic surgeries in order to change her appearance so she could take part in another hijacking.
That time came just over a year later in September 1970 when Khaled and an accomplice attempted to hijack an El Al Israel Airlines plane from Amsterdam to New York.
The hijacking attempt was foiled by Israeli sky marshals who killed Khaled’s accomplice and managed to detain Khaled. Some reports suggest Khaled removed the safety pin from a hand grenade that she was armed with and rolled down the aisle of the packed Economy Class cabin. The grenade failed to explode.
Khaled remained in custody for little more than a month before she was released as part of a prisoner swap. She now lives in Jordan.
Despite Khaled’s notoriety it’s difficult to say whether Amer’s t-shirt would fall foul of an airline’s dress code policy. Passengers are frequently removed from flights for wearing offensive t-shirts, but it would take a brave gate agent to make a judgement call on this one.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.