Waited a little too long to book your summer vacation flight to Europe? Ticket prices rising and reservations scarce?
There may be help from an unusual source, an unscheduled, deliberately under-publicized air carrier that has flown at least 1,000 flights to Europe and to as many as 37 nations, if you believe the angry folks at the European Council.
The operator is the CIA, and the Europeans are angry, officially at least, that the agency has used their airspace and their airfields to shuttle terrorism suspects from one secret prison to another.
The Bush administration is upset that word of these operations leaked. Clearly, some positive PR is in order. And what better builder of good will than letting hard-pressed American vacationers share these flights? Just ignore the terrorists shackled to the bulkhead.
The flights would be spur of the moment. You never know when there will be a late-breaking rendition.
And while the conditions are a little spartan for the bound and blindfolded suspects, it’s a safe guess that the CIA agents are traveling in comfort aboard what are basically corporate- and airline-sized craft.
Arrivals might be a problem _ at night, at remote Soviet-era airfields _ and the pilot might not be willing to shut off the engines at the darkened airport while you disembark. But what is travel if not adventure?
And the smart marketers at Langley might want to stress the adventure part.
First, they’ll want a catchy name _ Spookair; NSA, for No Such Airline; Spy King. A slogan would be good, too. Maybe a variation of American Airlines’ “We Know Why You Fly … And A Whole More.”
Rather than the humdrum trip to the airport, passengers with reservations could be snatched off the streets and bundled into black-windowed vans. We wouldn’t counsel taking this too far, because the handcuffs and leg restraints could pose a problem for the TSA screener manning the metal detector. Although the orange Guantanamo Bay-style prison jumpsuit might be a step up fashion-wise from most travelers’ customary summer attire.
The in-flight movies might run heavily to James Bond reruns, but there might be other in-flight diversions. Like when the plane starts making violent turns and the co-pilot comes back to your seat and asks, “Have you ever used these electronic jammers for heat-seeking missiles? No? We’re going to need you to start. Don’t miss.”
Finally, you arrive at _ you don’t know where. The flight was on a need-to-know basis and the agency decided you didn’t need to know where you were going. Eastern Poland can be a little bleak, even in the summer, but the people are great.
You say goodbye to your fellow travelers.
“Nice flying with you, Abu Musab.”
“Die a thousand deaths, you filthy infidel American pig.”
As Abu Musab is bundled off to a secret prison for an indefinite period of sleep deprivation, temperature extremes and unremitting noise _ pretty much like vacationing with teenagers _ you bid farewell to the crew.
“Great flight. When’s the return?”
“We could tell you, but then we’d have to kill you. Thanks for flying Trans Espionage.”
(Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)SHNS.com)